The End of Affordable Housing? Why the HARP Will Never Play

Back in September, The Observer revealed that, after a year of trying, the city’s ingenious (seeming) Housing Asset Renewal Program, or HARP, was broken, having created no units of affordable housing out of the hundreds of stalled luxury condo sites–which now number 709, as of yesterday.

In its latest issue, City Limits takes a closer look at HARP’s continued failure and turned up a pretty good explanation from an anonymous developer as to why builders and banks are more willing to take a bath on selling units themselves than take a haircut from the city and convert some units to affordable housing in exchange for public money.

“It’s a doorman building, it has larger units than in typical affordable housing. It wasn’t built as affordable housing, and doesn’t have economies of scale that run efficiently. It’s not necessarily a good match,” the developer says. “It costs a lot more to run these buildings then you spend on affordable housing. If you pay the developers enough that they’d make money, it would cost the city more than creating new affordable housing.”

He suggested that HARP would work best in buildings that are partially built. “These are eyesores in the neighborhood. They’re not serving anyone as a partially built product,” he says.

Maybe when the stalled building count hits 1,000, some of these developers will finally be persuaded by the numbers. Then again, with housing prices once again on the rise in the city, maybe this is the end of affordable housing as we know it.

mchaban [at] | @mc_nyo

The End of Affordable Housing? Why the HARP Will Never Play