New York City is facing an ongoing housing affordability crisis. The number of new homes built fails to keep up with the city’s population growth and rent increases are outpacing income growth. Half of the city’s renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent, and one-third of renter households spend over half their income on rent. Affordable housing is especially scarce for those with the lowest incomes, because the city has lost a substantial number of low-cost apartments over the last 30 years. To keep New Yorkers in their homes and to build diverse, thriving communities, the city greatly needs new affordable housing.
Houses of worship may present a special opportunity to address this crisis. By developing affordable housing on land that your institution owns, you can bring benefits to both your faith organization and your neighborhood. Developing an affordable housing project will create opportunities for greater financial security for your faith institution. It will also help reduce the housing cost burden faced by low- and moderate-income residents in your neighborhood; reduce displacement of current residents; and help generate other benefits associated with housing stability, such as improved health, child well-being, and economic mobility.
As the City’s affordable housing development agency, HPD will play a big role in your affordable housing project. HPD offers low-cost financing to developers who want to build housing in New York City that is affordable to extremely low- to moderate-income households, as well as for projects that serve senior citizens and individuals with special needs. This financing helps bring down the cost of construction, which allows property owners to set lower rents for their tenants. In addition to providing financing, HPD conducts land use activities, such as managing the rezoning of properties to allow for residential development; reviews property analyses and plans; and monitors construction to uphold standards of fair pay, quality, and safe working conditions. For more information on HPD’s loan programs, please visit our New Construction Financing webpage.
If you are interested in developing affordable housing, HPD can help you find the partners and resources to do so. Our Prequalified List of Planning and Development Resources (PQL) provides information about development experts who can help you shape the vision for your project and find the partners you need. The organizations on the Prequalified List were included because of their experience working on affordable housing projects in New York City and with HPD. You may reach out directly to any organization(s) that suit your project’s needs.
Your development partners will advise and guide you through all stages of the development process:
1. Early Pre-Development:
3. Construction & Tenant Selection:
Use the best practices checklist for mission-driven organizations, created by HPD and the Office of the Attorney General, when submitting petition to review to the NY State Charities Bureau.
Faith-based institution: Church or God of East Flatbush
Development partners: Church of God of East Flatbush, Brisa Builders, Procida Development, Evergreen City
Neighborhood: Brownsville, Brooklyn
Number of homes created: 315
Status: Phase 1A is almost fully occupied and Phase 1B is leasing now
Ebenezer Plaza is a multi-phase, mixed-use project being developed in partnership with the Church of God of East Flatbush. Phases 1A and 1B are being funded through the Extremely Low- and Low-Income Affordability (ELLA) program and will bring 315 affordable apartments, a new church space, and some commercial space to Brownsville. Two of the partners, Brisa Builders and Evergreen City, are Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises.
Faith-based institution: Home Street Presbyterian Church
Development partners: Bronx Pro, Dreamyard
Neighborhood: Foxhurst, Bronx
Number of homes created: 63
Status: The project was completed and occupied in 2019
Bronx Pro 1017 Home Street, developed through the Senior Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) program, consists of 63 affordable apartments for senior citizens (62+ years). Thirty percent of these apartments (19) are reserved for formerly homeless senior citizens. The project includes 3,000 square feet of community space, which Dreamyard is using for its BX Start program, which leverages the power of video games and digital media to promote economic opportunity, community-building, and social justice for the residents of the Bronx.
Please review the answers to our Frequently Asked Questions below to start learning about affordable housing development and what it means to work with HPD. You can download our flyer to share with your faith community. To continue the discussion, please email email@example.com to connect with a member of HPD’s Faith-Based Partnerships team.
Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.
1. What is affordable housing?
Housing is considered “affordable” if it costs about one-third or less of what the people living there earn. When developing affordable housing, HPD sets rents to be affordable to households with incomes that fall into specific ranges, from extremely low-income to middle-income. Affordable housing is regulated so that rents cannot rise drastically over time, keeping them affordable for tenants in the long-term. We work with mission-driven development partners to create privately-owned affordable housing opportunities. Tenants may apply for HPD-financed affordable homes through NYC Housing Connect, the City’s housing lottery portal.
2. Why should I consider developing affordable housing?
New York City is facing a housing affordability crisis with rent increases outpacing income growth and the number of new housing units created failing to keep up with the city’s population growth. Half of the city’s renter households spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and one-third of renter households spend over half of their income on rent. The city is also currently facing a shortage of vacant affordable apartments and has seen a substantial loss of low-cost units over the last few decades. To counteract this loss and ensure that low-income residents can afford to remain in their neighborhoods, the city greatly needs new affordable housing. By developing affordable housing on your property, you would help reduce the housing cost burden faced by low- and moderate-income residents in your community; reduce displacement; and help generate other benefits associated with housing stability, such as improved health, child well-being, and economic mobility. Affordable housing development can also create opportunities for greater financial security for your faith institution.
3. Who should I contact first if I am interested in developing affordable housing on my property?
If you are interested in developing affordable housing on your property but don’t know where to start, a good first step is to reach out to an Owner’s Representative that can provide you with technical assistance throughout the affordable housing development process. An Owner’s Representative can assess the suitability of your property for affordable housing, develop a vision for your affordable housing project, identify development partners (e.g., developer, architect, legal counsel) to work with, and raise “pre-development” funding, which covers the pre-construction costs of your project.
To find an Owner’s Representative who fits your needs, check out HPD’s Pre-Qualified List of Owner’s Representatives. HPD has vetted the firms on this list to ensure they have the expertise, experience, and capacity required to provide property owners with a range of consulting services related to affordable housing development in New York City, including project and property management, planning, design and construction, and financing. These firms have all had previous experience working with HPD on affordable housing projects, and many have worked with faith-based or nonprofit organizations as well.
HPD’s partners LISC and Enterprise Community Partners also offer programs and resources to help faith-based organizations navigate the affordable housing development process, from understanding your vision to finding development partners. Our faith-based partnerships team can connect you with these partners to learn more about their programs.
4. Who else do I need to work with on the affordable housing project?
In addition to working with an Owner’s Representative to guide you through the affordable housing development process, you will also need to find a developer, architect, and land use attorney for your affordable housing project. Developers and architects conduct property analyses, develop site and building designs, assemble financing, and manage housing construction. Attorneys advise on all real estate legal matters, including land use decisions and the negotiation of legal agreements between you and other parties involved in the affordable housing development process. We recommend working with development partners that are external to your organization and have significant experience and knowledge of the affordable housing development process, particularly working with HPD.
5. How do I know if my property is appropriate for affordable housing?
Many properties across New York City are appropriate for affordable housing development, depending on a variety of factors related to the characteristics of both the sites themselves and their surroundings. The suitability of your site for affordable housing also depends on your faith-based institution’s organizational structure and decision-making processes (for example, if you are part of a hierarchal church that must get approval for any changes to your building or property). The first step in assessing suitability is to determine whether you can physically build housing on your property. This step involves reviewing your property’s size and conditions, as well as zoning and other local land use rules. In addition to the physical conditions of your site, you will need to consider your organization's broader institutional goals. HPD can connect you to a technical assistance provider who can help you conduct a suitability analysis and think through your vision.
6. What is HPD's mission?
HPD is the New York City government agency that is responsible for developing and maintaining the City’s stock of privately-owned affordable housing. HPD’s mission is to promote quality and affordability in the city’s housing, and diversity and strength in the city’s neighborhoods. The agency operates several programs to finance the construction of new affordable housing and ensure that existing housing remains affordable. It does this by providing tax exemptions, low-cost loans, and other financial tools that help bring down the costs of building and maintaining housing, which allows property owners to set lower rents. HPD also protects tenants’ rights and housing quality by preventing tenant harassment and displacement and enforcing the New York City Housing Maintenance Code, which regulates buildings’ safety and physical conditions. Additionally, HPD supports small homeowners and landlords through trainings, technical assistance, and financial support.
7. What are the stages of an affordable housing project?
The affordable housing development process can be broken down into the following stages:
Early Pre-Development (1-2 years): In this first stage, you will work with your Owner’s Representative (i.e., your project manager) to develop a vision for your property, conduct a preliminary assessment of your property, gather community feedback on your plans, and pull together “pre-development” funding to cover early-stage costs of the project. A key step in this process is the selection of a developer for your affordable housing project. It is important that the developer you select has prior experience working with HPD on developing affordable housing and understands the City’s land use and development processes. Your Owner’s Representative will help you put out and evaluate responses from a Request for Proposals (RFP), which invites developers to submit proposals for projects that meet your vision. Once you have selected a developer, your attorney will help you negotiate and execute the partnership agreement.
Pre-Development (2-5 years): Once you have secured a developer and pre-development funding, your development team will begin the pre-development process. This stage involves activities to prepare for construction, including building design, obtaining construction permits, changing the land use through a process called “rezoning” (if necessary), public and environmental review, and getting together financing for construction. The pre-development funding you pulled together in the previous stage covers the costs of these activities, including the engineers, architects, and attorneys needed to carry them out. The end of this stage is marked by the financial closing. In this process, you and your developer will sign your contract with HPD and any other funders and complete and sign all legal paperwork.
Construction & Tenant Selection (2-4 years): The final stage involves the actual construction of your housing project, followed by the selection of tenants and safety inspections before tenants move in. HPD manages the process of selecting tenants through the City’s affordable housing lottery process, matching tenants to appropriate units based on income and family size (see Question 27 for more information about the City’s affordable housing lottery). The Department of Buildings will need to inspect and certify the building as “complete”.
8. What is HPD’s role in the affordable housing development process? What roles do other partners play?
After you have developed a vision for your property and selected a development team, your deal will need to be approved by the Office of the New York State Attorney General. The purpose of this approval is to ensure that you are entering into a fair partnership that adequately compensates your house of worship for its land.
Then you will work with your developer to determine how to bring your vision to life. Together, you will decide which of HPD’s financing programs are appropriate for your project and submit a proposal to that program. The proposal will include the vision and scope of the affordable housing project, preliminary analyses and building designs, legal documentation, and a preliminary financing plan.
Once HPD receives and approves your project plan (which may take 2-5 years), a HPD project manager will be assigned to your project and will work with you and your development team to monitor and advise on your pre-development activities, such as securing land use approvals and funding sources. HPD will work with you and your developer partner to close on construction financing and will monitor the project’s construction progress.
Once the building is complete, HPD will coordinate the process for selecting and moving in tenants, help securing Department of Buildings approval for building completion, and will work to convert your construction financing to permanent financing. Finally, after the building is complete and operational, HPD will take on an asset management role to maintain compliance with affordability and other regulatory requirements.
9. When should I contact HPD in the affordable housing development process? What do I need to have ready before engaging HPD in the project? Who should I contact at HPD?
HPD plays a role on your project in the pre-development and construction & lease-up phases. Before your team contacts HPD, you should have worked with your developer to (1) pull together your pre-development financing, (2) determine which of HPD’s construction financing programs to apply to, and (3) put together a project proposal. The proposal will include the vision and scope of your affordable housing project, findings from preliminary site studies, legal documentation, and a preliminary financing plan. Your team should contact HPD when this proposal is ready for submission.
10. What kinds of financing programs does HPD offer for affordable housing projects?
HPD offers a range of financing options for the development of affordable housing, including low-cost loans, grants, and incentives to lower property taxes. The amount of financing that HPD can offer depends on the affordability levels that you propose for your project. We offer loan programs at varying affordability levels and that target smaller projects and provide support to projects for seniors or individuals with special needs. These programs include the following:
11. Does HPD finance non-housing spaces or uses of properties (e.g., parking spaces, community facilities, worship areas)?
In its role as New York City’s housing development agency, HPD’s role is to finance the development of the affordable housing portion of your project. If you intend to include a worship space, community facility (e.g., daycare, senior center, etc.), or commercial space (e.g., grocery store, retail, etc.), you will need to find an alternative source of funding for that portion of the project. (Proceeds from land sales may be recycled back into the project to fund the construction of the sanctuary.) Your development partners can also help you identify appropriate funding for the non-housing parts of your project.
12. Does HPD finance market-rate housing?
In its role as New York City’s housing development agency, HPD only finances the development of affordable housing for projects that align with its term sheets. If you are interested in building market-rate housing, you will need to find an alternative source of funding. Your development partners can also help you identify appropriate funding for a market-rate development project.
13. Where can I get financing to cover the portions of my project that HPD does not finance?
HPD only finances construction for affordable housing projects that fall within certain requirements (see Question 10 for more information on HPD’s programs). Even with HPD support, you will likely need additional funding to cover the full cost of your project. Sources of additional funding include loans from private banks and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs are mission-driven financial institutions that usually offer more affordable loan rates for projects that do social good), as well as tax credits. HPD’s partners, LISC and Enterprise Community Partners, may be able to connect you with funding to cover pre-development costs. Your development partners can help you identify additional sources of funding to help bring your vision to life.
14. How long will the affordable housing project take to complete?
The pre-development process can take at least 2-5 years and construction often takes at least 2 years to complete. Your development partners and the HPD project manager assigned to your project will be able to provide more accurate estimates of timelines for your affordable housing project, which will vary based on the scope of your project and the HPD program you select.
Please note that HPD’s development pipeline is very long and due to high demand and critical staff shortages, it may take a significant amount of time to complete the pre-development and financial closing steps before construction can begin.
15. What is Area Median Income (AMI)? Why does it matter for my project?
Income eligibility and rent for City-financed affordable housing projects are based on a measure called Area Median Income (AMI). AMI is calculated annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and represents the median family income across the NYC Metro Area (including the five boroughs and the surrounding counties). The AMI category a household falls into depends on both the household income and the number of people in the household. The 2022 AMI for the NYC region is $120,100 for a family of three. A household is considered extremely low-income if it makes between 0% and 30% of that AMI (up to $36,030 for a family of three) and is considered middle-income if it makes between 121% and 165% of that AMI (up to $198,165 for a family of three). See this infographic for information on other AMI categories.
HPD uses the AMI as a point of reference when setting the income requirements for our new construction finance programs to meet the needs of New Yorkers. To receive HPD financing for your affordable housing development, rents for your buildings must be affordable to households that make incomes that fall withing certain AMI ranges (typically between 30% and 80% of the AMI). The AMI requirements vary for different HPD financing programs (see Question 10 for more information about HPD’s financing programs). Your development partners can help you identify the AMI levels and relevant financing programs for your affordable housing project.
16. What is zoning?
Zoning refers to land use regulations that specify how a property owner may use their land (usually for residential, commercial, or industrial use). Zoning also governs the size of a new building, generally specifying things like the allowable height and floor area and how close buildings can be to one another in a given area, as well as requirements for parking.
17. How do zoning laws affect my affordable housing project? If my property is not zoned for residential use, what can I do?
Zoning laws place limits on the kind of development that can occur on your property. If your property is zoned for residential use, you may develop affordable housing buildings on your property. Most commercial zoning districts also permit residential development. Zoning laws may also specify what your housing developments can look like, including the allowable building height and floor area (which will determine the number of apartments and floors you can build) and how close multiple buildings can be to one another. To check the zoning regulations for your property, visit the NYC Department of City Planning’s (DCP's) ZoLa tool.
If your property is not zoned to allow residential use (i.e., you cannot construct residential buildings on your property), you may be able to propose zoning changes for your property. Zoning change proposals must go through a public review process (known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP) and are ultimately approved by the City Planning Commission within the Department of City Planning and by the City Council (see Question 19 for more information about ULURP). To propose a zoning change, you must discuss the proposal and submit an application to DCP. Your development partners can help you prepare and submit your application. Submission of a proposal is not a guarantee that your proposed land use change will be accepted.
18. Can I change my property’s zoning to build a larger project?
If you would like to develop buildings that are larger than what is allowed by your property’s existing zoning regulations, you may propose a zoning change to permit a larger development. These zoning change proposals must go through the ULURP application process with the NYC Department of City Planning (see Question 19 for more information about ULURP). Your development partners can help you prepare and submit an application to propose a zoning change. Submission of a proposal is not a guarantee that your proposed land use change will be accepted.
19. What is ULURP? Does my project need to go through ULURP? How long does ULURP take?
ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) is the public review process that all projects requesting zoning changes must go through. If existing zoning laws for your property do not permit certain development activities (e.g., if your property cannot be used to develop residential buildings, or if you cannot develop buildings above a certain height limit or permitted amount of floor area), you may propose zoning changes to meet your development needs.
If you would like to propose a zoning change, you will need to go through ULURP. Your Owner’s Representative or developer will be able to help you navigate this process and submit an application to the Department of City Planning. The application will then be reviewed by the City Planning Commission, the relevant Community Board(s), the Borough President, the City Council, and the Mayor. Each of these groups hold public hearings to review and provide recommendations on the proposed zoning changes. The ULURP process ends when the recommendations are sent to the City Council and City Council votes to approve or disapprove the proposed zoning changes. The entire ULURP process takes 7 months to complete. If you pursue a zoning change as part of an HPD-financed project, you will be assigned an HPD Planner to help you navigate ULURP. Submission of a proposal is not a guarantee that your proposed land use change will be accepted.
20. What is environmental review? How does it affect my project?
State and local laws require that development activities go through an environmental review process, which involves identifying any potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and recommending measures to eliminate or lessen these impacts. Every affordable housing project that receives financing from HPD and/or is going through a zoning change must also go through an environmental review. The environmental review process is one step in the pre-development process and takes place at the same time as ULURP (see Question 19 for more information). Your developer will help guide you through the environmental review process, including preparing and submitting all necessary documents.
21. How do I know if my property is landmarked? How will that affect my affordable housing project?
If a building on your property is landmarked, it is considered to have historical, cultural, or aesthetic value to the City and has protected status. This means that you must request approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission before making any changes to your landmarked building, such as demolition or new construction. Landmarked status can increase the costs of building maintenance and repairs and increase the length of time needed to develop affordable housing in your building. It may also limit what you can build or prevent you from building affordable housing at all. Your development partners can help you understand the implications of your building’s landmarked status for your affordable housing project.
You can check to see if your property is landmarked by using the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Landmark Search tool. If your affordable housing project involves demolishing or changing an existing landmarked building, you must apply for a permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Your development partners can help you prepare and apply for a Landmarks Preservation Commission permit.
22. What resources are available to help me renovate or update my landmarked building?
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has an expedited review process and may be able to fast track your application (i.e., approve it within 10 days). The Landmarks Preservation Commission Permit Guidebook has more information on how to navigate this expedited review process. The Landmarks Preservation Commission also offers grants ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 to nonprofit organizations, which they may use to restore the exterior of their buildings.
The New York Landmarks Conservancy, a New York City-based nonprofit, operates a hotline that can answer your questions about repairs and renovations to your landmarked building and can connect you to additional resources. The New York Landmark Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Fund also provides faith-based organizations with matching grants for planning and implementing exterior restoration projects, technical assistance, and workshops.
23. What are air rights?
Your property’s zoning determines how tall and large your building can be. If your building is not as tall or large as the zoning allows (e.g., you have a one-story building in a zoning area that allows for three-story buildings), your property is granted “air rights,” which are the rights to use that unused space above or near your property for new development. Typically, air rights refer to empty space above or next to your building where new development can occur. You could construct affordable housing or another type of development on any unused space above or adjacent to your existing building if you have air rights to do so. You can also sell your air rights to the developer of a nearby construction project, who can then use those to build their project taller or larger than the zoning rules allow.
24. How will air rights affect my affordable housing project? What do I need to keep in mind when deciding to sell or purchase air rights?
If you have air rights for your property that you do not plan on using, you could sell these rights to a nearby property and generate revenue to fund building repairs and maintenance or to fund new construction, such as an affordable housing development. While this is a good source of funding, you will not be able to re-obtain your air rights after selling them. This means you would not be able to use them to build a bigger project on your property in the future.
If you are interested in a project that requires more area for development than you currently own on your property, one option is to purchase air rights from a neighboring property to construct a larger or taller building.
Your development partners will be able to discuss the pros and cons of selling or purchasing air rights for your affordable housing project. If you decide to sell or purchase air rights, your development partners will conduct an air rights transfer and negotiate an agreement with the current owner of the air rights.
25. Do I need to have parking spaces for my affordable housing project? Can I waive the parking requirements?
Zoning laws that affect your property may require you to include parking spaces in your affordable housing project, depending on which district your property is in and its distance from mass transit. Typically, housing development projects in areas where mass transit is more accessible require fewer parking spaces while those in areas with less access to mass transit require more parking spaces. In some districts, the minimum parking requirement may be waived for certain affordable housing projects. You can check what the parking regulations are for your residential district on this page.
Your development partners can help you determine the appropriate amount of parking space for your development and submit a waiver to remove parking requirements if necessary.
26. Who should I engage to build community support for my project? When should I engage them?
Your Owner’s Representative will be able to advise you on how to engage with members of your faith-based community to gather input and support for your affordable housing project. Additionally, you should engage the community beyond your house of worship, including elected officials, community leaders, and your neighbors, to inform them of your plains and build support. Your Owner’s Representative and/or developer can help you to develop a strategy to connect with relevant community groups and leaders. Engaging your community in early stages of your project is important to developing a vision and plan that address and are responsive to community concerns and needs before construction begins.
27. How will tenants be selected for my building?
HPD manages the process of selecting tenants for your building through the City’s affordable housing lottery process, matching tenants to apartments based on their incomes and family sizes. After construction, HPD will list your affordable housing units on NYC Housing Connect, the City’s online housing lottery portal. Through NYC Housing Connect, potential tenants can apply for available apartments and, if eligible based on their income level and family size, may be matched to an affordable apartment.
Please note that you may not set aside affordable apartments in your project for members of your house of worship or other specified individuals. However, congregants who meet the income eligibility requirements may apply for the housing lottery for your project through Housing Connect. Applying to Housing Connect does not guarantee that an individual will receive an apartment through the lottery.