April 19, 2023
‘Unlocking Doors’ Pilot Program Will Connect 400 Households With Vouchers to Newly Renovated, Rent-Stabilized Apartments
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced “Unlocking Doors,” a new program that will invest up to $10 million to renovate distressed rent-stabilized homes and then connect New Yorkers experiencing homelessness with access to those homes. Through this pilot, the city will provide up to $25,000 for needed repairs at each of 400 rent-stabilized homes that are currently vacant and unavailable for rent. The city will then match the rehabilitated apartments with households with City Fighting Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (CityFHEPS) vouchers for use.
“Our administration is ‘unlocking doors’ and giving New Yorkers the key not just to a new home, but also to a brighter, safer, more prosperous future,” said Mayor Adams. “Since we released ‘Housing Our Neighbors’ last year, getting New Yorkers into safe, high-quality, affordable homes has been this administration’s north star. And with this innovative program, we are doing exactly that while tackling two major challenges at the same time — adding much-needed, affordable housing supply to the market and connecting some of the lowest-income New Yorkers living in shelters with high-quality, permanent housing.”
“‘Unlocking Doors’ demonstrates this administration’s commitment to housing New Yorkers experiencing homelessness,” said Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. “This program improves the quality of our housing stock, while providing incentives to property owners to make vacant units available for the lowest-income New Yorkers. In doing this work, we continue to meet goals of this administration’s housing and homelessness blueprint.”
“In the midst of this housing crisis, we need to unlock every opportunity to create safe, quality, affordable housing,” said New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. “Through ‘Unlocking Doors,’ we’re getting urgently needed rent-stabilized apartments fixed up and ready for move-in for those who need it most desperately, so we can provide life-changing stability and security for 400 households experiencing homelessness.”
“We are thrilled to see the city introducing new and innovative programs to directly address the shortage of safe and affordable housing for New York City’s most vulnerable residents,” said New York City Department of Social Services Acting Commissioner Molly Wasow Park. “The ‘Unlocking Doors’ pilot program will ensure the city is effectively utilizing its stock of rent-stabilized apartments and CityFHEPS vouchers to promote housing stability and reduce homelessness. We look forward to working closely with all our partners to make sure that vulnerable New Yorkers have access to the supports and housing they deserve.”
As the city faces a severe housing shortage, “Unlocking Doors” builds on key initiatives in Mayor Adams’ “Housing Our Neighbors” blueprint by focusing on identifying creative ways to add new housing supply in New York City. The dearth of available apartments is particularly acute in the most affordable housing, with less than one-percent of apartments with asking rents below $1,500 available.
Through this pilot, which will begin accepting applications this summer, the city will focus on the small number of rent-stabilized apartments that have been chronically vacant and need significant repairs to become safe and habitable. The program will incentivize property owners with very low-rent apartments to make repairs, ensure the apartment is safe to occupy, and then rent it to a New Yorker experiencing homelessness with a CityFHEPS voucher. New Yorkers moving into the renovated units will receive a two-year lease at the existing rent-stabilized monthly rent. They will then be able to use their CityFHEPS voucher to pay a maximum of one-third of their income for rent, and the city will cover the remaining balance.
Owners applying to join the pilot will need to demonstrate that their apartment is chronically vacant and has been registered with New York State Homes and Community Renewal (NYS HCR) as continuously vacant, that the rent for the apartment does not exceed program-specific rent thresholds, and that they will sign a rent-stabilized lease with a CityFHEPS voucher holder. While exact eligibility criteria, including affordability levels, will be determined through rulemaking, this pilot will prioritize units at the lowest stabilized rents, or around $1,200 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Once repairs are complete, HPD will confirm that the building and apartment meet CityFHEPS housing quality standards, and the New York City Human Resources Administration will reimburse owners for qualifying repair expenses up to $25,000 per unit after an eligible New Yorker with a CityFHEPS voucher moves in.
The Adams administration continues to support efforts in Albany to create a modernized J-51 program that would keep existing affordable homes from falling into disrepair. The program, which expired last year, provides a tax exemption or abatement to property owners to renovate existing apartment buildings and make or keep the units affordable. The administration also supports measures to ensure property owners are registering vacant rent-stabilized units with NYS HCR, including increased penalties for those that fail to comply. Registering vacant units is essential for determining if other interventions are needed to prevent affordable housing being held off the market.
“CityFHEPS vouchers are one of the most effective tools we have to help families move out of shelter and remain in permanent housing, but they only work when there are enough affordable apartments for New Yorkers to rent,” said Christine C. Quinn, president and CEO, Win. “This is exactly the kind of innovative public-private partnership we need to get affordable apartments back online and ensure homeless families have direct access to them — and it will change hundreds of New Yorkers’ lives. I look forward to continuing to work with the Adams administration to make CityFHEPS vouchers as effective and impactful as possible.”
“Confronting the city’s housing crisis will require a comprehensive toolkit that includes policies to both increase production and address the needs of vulnerable renters,” said James Whelan, president, Real Estate Board of New York. “We applaud Mayor Adams and his administration for putting forth creative solutions that seek to address the need for renovating and maintaining much-needed housing stock for voucher holders.”