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PR- 182-05
May 11, 2005


The following is the text as prepared for delivery of Mayor Bloomberg's Affordable Housing Address at New York Hilton Hotel in the Manhattan:

Good afternoon everyone.  

Citizens Housing and Planning Council is a great organization that has for many years created good, affordable housing for all New Yorkers.  

1937: that was the year CHPC was founded.  We were in the midst of the Great Depression-years of misery for many in our city. 

But they were also years when we were fortunate to be led by our greatest mayor, Fiorello La Guardia.  And nowhere did he demonstrate his energetic leadership more effectively than in working to create affordable housing.

That wasn't some abstract issue for La Guardia.  It was a passionate crusade-one profoundly influenced by the fact that his first wife and their infant daughter were victims of the great killing disease of the city's overcrowded tenements:  tuberculosis.

So he put New York in the forefront of the drive to establish public housing-aided by the National Public Housing Act that CHPC played a key role in persuading Congress to pass.  In the fall of 1937, the first families moved into the most ambitious public housing development the nation had ever seen: Williamsburg Houses in Brooklyn. 

For people coming there from the city's slums, the apartments at the Williamsburg Houses were a dream come true.  They offered the kind of light and ventilation and space that the tenants had only dreamed of. 

Well, our city is vastly different now than it was back in 1937.  But the dream of creating good housing and of giving our children an atmosphere of humanity and decency in which to grow up endures.

It endures because, while the teeming tenements of La Guardia's days are thankfully gone, for far too many of our fellow New Yorkers the desperate need for affordable housing remains. 

Today, nearly half of New Yorkers pay more than 30% of their income to rent apartments that are all-too-often cramped and crowded. 

For millions of New Yorkers, the struggle to pay the rent, makes saving for their children's educations or putting something aside for their own future needs is virtually impossible.

So long as that remains the case, the great promise of New York - the promise of truly being a city of opportunity for all, will remain unfulfilled. 

That's why I join you in saluting today's honorees for their contributions to creating good housing for New Yorkers:  Donald Notice and West Harlem Group Assistance, George Engelke Jr. and Astoria Federal Savings and Loan, and Ronay Menschel and Adam Weinstein of Phipps Houses.

It's also why our Administration has made affordable housing one of our top priorities.

And today, I'm proud to tell you that using our era's resources and tools we are producing extraordinary results.

We've accomplished that, first and foremost, by fostering the conditions that make for a healthy housing market and then by channeling those market forces into the production of affordable housing.

By driving crime down to historic lows in all five boroughs, by making our streets cleaner than they've been in 30 years, by reforming our public schools, and by creating jobs and opportunity in all five boroughs, we've convinced housing developers that this is a city with a boundless future - one where businesses want to locate and expand, and where people want to live and raise their families.

The result is that our housing market is flourishing.

Just look at the record.  Last year, new housing construction in New York reached a 32-year high.  And construction continues to climb.  During the first quarter of this year, housing permits were 38% higher than during the same period of 2004.

And let me note the boroughs outside Manhattan are leading the way.  Over the last year, more than half the new housing permits the city has issued have been for construction in Brooklyn and Queens.

And we've capitalized on this strong private market to foster investment in affordable housing. 

Our Administration is fortunate to have a great housing policy team, whose leaders are here today: Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Shaun Donovan, Emily Youssouf, the president of HDC, the Housing Development Corporation, and Tino Hernandez, chairman of the New York City Housing Authority. 

They understand that today, leveraging private investment is key to creating affordable housing.

That's because City government no longer holds the vast stock of housing surrendered in the tax foreclosures that followed the widespread arson and abandonment of the 1970s.  Mayor Koch and his successors created incentives to rehabilitate that housing for the people of our city.  They set in motion the miraculous neighborhood renaissance that continues today.

As our communities have revived, the city's in rem housing stock has fallen from the more than 100,000 apartments the City owned some 20 years ago to just 3,000 apartments now.  

Which means that today, the private market is where the real affordable housing action is, and where it will be in the future.  That's why we call the affordable housing initiative our Administration launched some two and a half years ago "The New Housing Marketplace."

And to stimulate that marketplace, we've developed new incentives and tools, established new partnerships and found creative ways to stimulate affordable housing development. 

For starters, our Administration made a five-year commitment to the New Housing Marketplace totaling $3 billion.  As part of that, HDC is investing $500 million of the corporate reserves it has built up over time, with the goal of leveraging six times that much in private dollars. 

Then we began to aggressively recruit affordable housing partners in the non-profit sector, in government, and in the private sector, too. 

Last fall, for example, we won a major new commitment from one of the City's most reliable affordable housing allies:  the Enterprise Foundation.  It's putting $1 billion in equity, grants, and loans into the New Housing Marketplace-enough to build and preserve 15,000 affordable homes for New Yorkers.

In April, along with City Comptroller Bill Thompson, we also created another new partnership that we believe will establish a long-term dedicated fund for affordable housing with monies from Battery Park City Authority.  We're working with the directors of the BPCA, and are hopeful they will approve this agreement.

It would amount to $130 million over the next four years. It also would make good on a decades-old pledge to the people of New York, to use BPCA funds for affordable housing-and no one has been more tireless in advocating for that than CHPC executive director Frank Braconi.  It would allow the City to acquire and repair existing housing, often in bulk and at discounted prices, obtain and prepare land now for affordable housing development later and subsidize apartments for the lowest-income New Yorkers, like many of the formerly homeless, who are hard to serve with existing programs.

We've also pulled Mo Vaughn into our lineup-that's right, the former Mets slugger.  He used to cover first base at Shea Stadium, but now he's got a new bag -- affordable housing in the South Bronx. 

Earlier this year, our Administration teamed up with Mo and his company, Omni New York LLC, to launch a $5 million renovation of 300 apartments at two buildings in Mott Haven.  The apartments will be getting new floors, new bathrooms, new kitchen cabinets, and major upgrades in electrical, plumbing, and other building systems.  And rents will stay at an average of $270 a month.

It is one of many instances in which the City is serving as a matchmaker for transferring properties from HUD-the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development-to groups like Omni that are willing to make the investments the buildings need, and keep them affordable.  Mo Vaughn is with us today.  And Mo let me tell you, you've hit a real affordable housing grand slam for our city.

One of our top priorities is opening up more of our long-abandoned waterfront to public use and enjoyment.

And we've capitalized on the market's clear desire to build in these neighborhoods to ensure that there will be thousands of units of new affordable housing on our reclaimed waterfront.  The rezonings of the Hudson Yards earlier this year, and of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront which the Council is expected to approve this afternoon, will-in the years to come-create whole new neighborhoods in New York.

CHPC's involvement in this effort-your constructive criticism and principled endorsement of these rezonings-made an enormous difference.  Your support was especially valuable in helping us devise mechanisms that ensure the creation of more than 3,700 affordable apartments in the Hudson Yards area and more than 3,500 affordable apartments in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.  

CHPC has long been an articulate advocate for inclusionary zoning-for permitting developers to build taller buildings in exchange for keeping some of the apartments affordable. 

We embrace inclusionary zoning for two key reasons.  First, it gives affordable housing traction it wouldn't otherwise have in a hot real estate market-because with inclusionary zoning, the stronger the market, the more valuable the extra apartments in the taller buildings become.

Second, inclusionary zoning promotes the kind of socially cohesive neighborhoods that define New York City at our best.    It replaces anti-development fears about gentrification and displacement with a commitment to building economically and ethnically diverse communities. 

That's a big win for New York's future. 

In the case of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, how we "got to yes" on the rezoning plan showed just how sincere our commitment to the community was.

It was a process that residents of the community took part in, and the outcome was one they helped shape.  And that's only right, because they're going to be living with the results for years to come.

The Catholic Church, the Diocese of Brooklyn, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, and also local parishes, played a big role in shaping this historic agreement, which will result in the creation of 54 new acres of parks and open spaces- as well as, in percentage terms, establishing the biggest affordable housing commitment the City has ever made as part of a rezoning package.

I'd like to ask all of you to join me in recognizing, and thanking Father Jim O'Shea of Churches United for Fair Housing for helping us craft this historic agreement.

And by the way, I want to point out that the Diocese of Brooklyn is our partner in more ways than one.  It has committed that 150 units of affordable housing will go up on sites it holds in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

Those are some of the affordable housing strategies we've followed, and the tools we've employed to realize them.

Now let me summarize our results.

When we launched the New Housing Marketplace some two years ago, we set a goal of funding the preservation and creation of 65,000 units of affordable housing in all five boroughs by the end of 2008.  They will be concentrated where they're needed most, including nearly 21,000 units slated for the Bronx and nearly 19,000 for Brooklyn. 

They include an exciting new homeownership program developed by HDC and Bank of America that will finance construction of some 3,000 affordable co-ops.

All told, they will provide housing for 200,000 New Yorkers.

By the end of next month, we will be 40% of the way to meeting our original 65,000-unit goal; 26,000 units will be created or preserved, providing housing for nearly 80,000 New Yorkers.

But in more ways than one, that's only the beginning.

That's true because many additional initiatives are taking us beyond our original target. 

The $130 million housing trust fund we hope to establish with BPCA funds would let us increase our goal to 68,000 units by the end of 2008-with an additional 1,500 to follow in the years after that.

Second, many of the more than 7,200 units of affordable housing that will result from the inclusionary rezonings of Hudson Yards and Greenpoint/Williamsburg aren't even part of the original New Housing Marketplace plan.  Their development will occur after 2008-and will be a big down-payment on the city's future affordable housing needs. 

An third, HDC has already kept some 8,500 Mitchell-Lama apartments affordable, by offering Mitchell-Lama owners repair loans and restructured mortgages in exchange for staying in the program.  That total is expected to almost double by the end of the summer.  

When you combine all of these additional major ventures and add them to the New Housing Marketplace, we're on course to preserve and create at least 85,000 units of affordable housing citywide over the life of these initiatives.

Nor are we stopping there. 

With help from the MacArthur Foundation, HPD is already laying the groundwork for the next round of large-scale housing preservation efforts, with preliminary planning focusing on the approximately 200,000 housing units in New York that are either part of HUD's portfolio or are Low-Income Housing Tax Credit developments, or are Mitchell-Lama apartments in the five boroughs not covered by HDC's second mortgage program.

And HDC is also helping NYCHA fund an historic four-year, $2 billion plan to repair and modernize public housing throughout the city, a capital program that will dramatically improve housing and the quality of life for many of NYCHA's 420,000 tenants.  Coupled with "Operation Safe Housing," our multi-agency campaign to drive crime down in NYCHA developments, it shows that we still honor the commitment to good public housing that Mayor La Guardia and the CHPC made nearly 70 years ago.

That commitment involved a strong partnership with Washington-and today, we still need the support and cooperation of our Federal government.  Because while private investment is crucial to affordable housing creation, it's also true that investors need to be confident that government is going to be a steady and consistent partner.

The future of affordable housing in New York depends on a strong Federal commitment to our local efforts.

In the realm of public housing, HUD has proposed a new funding formula that would substantially reduce Federal support for the city's Housing Authority.

I have strongly urged the Bush Administration and Congressional leaders to reject these proposed cuts, and you should, too.  Instead, they should live up to the funding formula that was already worked out in negotiations among HUD, public housing authorities, and tenant representatives.  That would be the fair thing to do.

Also, as you know, the Bush Administration has proposed consolidating some 18 programs, including the Community Development Block Grant program, into one block grant, and cutting funds to them by 35%.

The good news is that Congress's budget resolution rejected that proposal, and restored some $1.5 billion to the CDBG program.  The less-than-good news is that that resolution is purely advisory.  The action now moves to the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate for a final decision in the fall.

Our Administration's position is simple: The Community Development Block Grant program must be fully funded.

And that funding can't involve robbing Peter to pay Paul by taking money away from other housing programs.

CDBG was crucial to what the Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani Administrations accomplished in getting the City's in rem housing back on the tax rolls.  But our support for CDBG isn't based on nostalgia.

Right now, 75% of the more than half-million housing code inspections that HPD makes each year are paid for by CDBG monies.  These funds also pay for 100% of HPD's emergency repair program.  In fact, at $141 million, CDBG accounts for more than 30% of HPD's expense budget in the current fiscal year.

Those funds are crucial to sustaining the achievements of our affordable housing initiatives and their continued success is crucial to what Father O'Shea and Mo Vaughn and all of you here today are doing to help us truly make New York a city of opportunity for all.

Good affordable housing, housing that provides all New Yorkers with an environment of humanity and decency in which to live and raise their families, is fundamental to realizing that vision.  I know.  I can still remember how thrilled my mother and father were when our family moved into the home they'd scrimped and saved to buy back in Medford, Massachusetts.

It was modest.  But it was ours.  And it helped give me the foundation to make what I could of my life.

Every boy and girl growing up in this city today deserves that same chance and with your help and your continued support over the next four years, we'll give them that opportunity and we'll make sure that the best days for them and for all of New York City are still to come.

Thank you and God bless you all.


Edward Skyler / Paul Elliott   (212) 788-2958

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