Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today joined Houston Mayor Bill White on a listening and learning tour of some of New York City's most successful affordable housing developments. In a May 19th letter to Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor White expressed his desire to meet with New York City officials to discuss the City's innovative housing and neighborhood revitalization strategies, including public-private partnerships, to benefit Project Houston Hope, an ambitious plan to revitalize neglected and abandoned Houston neighborhoods. Mayor White spent the morning touring affordable housing developments in Harlem and the South Bronx. Mayor Bloomberg joined Mayor White at the Honeywell Apartments in the Bronx, an 89-unit mixed-income building developed by Phipps Houses and opened in October 2005 as part of Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace plan, the largest municipal affordable housing plan in history. Mayors Bloomberg and White were joined by Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Shaun Donovan, Housing Development Corporation President Emily Youssouf, Chair of the Houston Housing Authority Tim Secckinger, Houston Housing Finance Corporation Chair Redick Edwards and Adam Weinstein, President and CEO of Phipps Houses.
"Many of the most exciting initiatives and innovations in the area of affordable housing are taking place today right here in New York," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We're very pleased and honored by the fact that elected officials with the stature of Bill White are coming here to study what we are doing. It's a remarkable indication of how our affordable housing plan is not only a compassionate way of meeting one of the most urgent social needs of our time, but also a sound economic investment. Today, our neighborhoods are stronger than ever before, but we still face a major challenge: affordability. Our Administration's $7.5 billion Ten Year Plan addresses this concern by using new and innovative ways to harness the power of the private housing market to provide 165,000 units over ten years for 500,000 low and middle-income New Yorkers."
"In Houston, we are building affordable housing in blighted areas, and I want to learn from New York's experience in Harlem and the South Bronx and other neighborhoods," said Houston Mayor Bill White. "Houston is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and we have a special challenge because of the influx of thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees."
Since Mayor Bloomberg came to office, the City has funded the construction and preservation of 58,161 affordable houses and apartments in all five boroughs. Over the past two years of the Mayor's housing plan, the City will have started construction on over two and half times more new units than in the two years with the highest levels of new construction of Mayor Koch's housing plan (Fiscal Years 1989 and 1990). The number of new housing units authorized for construction in 2005 - 32,000 - was the highest since 1972. Building permits for January to March 2006 were 7,697 - a 27.2% increase from the same period in 2005.
Mayors Bloomberg and White discussed strategies for revitalizing neighborhoods, including: harnessing the private market, employing inclusionary zoning, maximizing land use, and preserving government assisted affordable housing units developed through public sector programs.
"The issues of affordability, neighborhood revitalization and need for federal housing assistance are shared by cities across the country - and Houston and New York have much knowledge and expertise to share," said HPD Commissioner and HDC Chairman Donovan. "Here in New York City, we are making significant progress toward fulfilling Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan. Housing starts, homeownership rates and neighborhood conditions are at record highs. But we know that we can and need to do even more. Our Ten Year Plan will pioneer new tools - from reforming tax incentives to expanding inclusionary zoning - to catalyze and harness the private market to create affordable housing."
"Mayor Bloomberg's laser like focus on developing and preserving affordable housing, along with the strong support of the state legislature and the Governor's office, have enabled HDC to become the nation's number one issuer of multi-family affordable housing bonds," said Emily A. Youssouf, the president of HDC. "Our innovative programs have attracted developers to affordable housing like never before, and our growing transaction volume is fueling the ambitious New Housing Marketplace Plan. We welcome Mayor White to New York City and are pleased to work with him to share our best practices and cutting-edge strategies."
Under Mayor White, Houston has been implementing Project Houston Hope, an effort to revitalize six inner-city historic neighborhoods through blight removal and acquisition of abandoned lots for affordable housing, and by improving the schools. The Houston Hope vision is to substantially reduce poverty and create hope for the residents of Houston's poorest and most blighted neighborhoods. Project Houston Hope targets homes that are delinquent on their property taxes. Since 2005 the program has foreclosed on 1,500 properties where taxes have not been paid for an average of 19 years, compared to about 300 foreclosures in 2003. Houston is also working to house thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, highlighting the need for federal housing assistance through programs like Section 8.