Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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NY1's Grace Rauh takes a closer look at the mayor's plans and the hurdles to building and accessing affordable housing in the five boroughs.

Brick By Brick: City, Private Developers Step In to Protect, Maintain Affordable Housing

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The city and private developers are stepping in to protect and maintain the affordable housing that already exists for low-income New Yorkers. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report, part 4 of her series, Brick by Brick.

The photo at left is what an apartment looks like when it is allowed to fall into deep disrepair. With financing from the city, though, John Fitzgerald's firm is preparing to fix it and other apartments in this Bronx building on University Avenue.

"We're putting it back together one piece at a time," Fitzgerald said.

The property was originally part of the city's affordable housing program, but it left and was run into the ground.

"It really was bad, said one tenant. "No lie. It was."

The new owners have big plans to improve things.

"All new kitchens, new bathrooms, new waste stacks, new copper pipe, electrical upgrades, window repairs and new floors," said John Murnane of Erin Construction and Development.

To get public financing to buy the property, the new landlord agreed to rejoin the city's affordable housing program.

"Can we make more money victimizing these people as they've been in the past? Yes. But my group, my firm, that's not who we're about," Fitzgerald said.

It is partnerships like these that will help Mayor Bill de Blasio reach his goal of building or saving 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade. The plan relies heavily on preservation. The administration is setting out to save 120,000 affordable apartments like these.

"You're talking about tenants who already have a place to live, and you're helping them stay in their place and in their neighborhood," said Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been.

Even if the city hits its numbers, New York's overall affordable housing stock could decline as once-affordable apartments turn into market-rate ones for a variety of reasons.

"We're racing to stay in place, yes," Been said.

Fitzgerald showed off another nearby property his company owns as an example of what is possible when the right investments are made.

Back at the building on University Avenue, the renovation work continues. The developer and city officials have high hopes for what's to come.

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