June 5, 2015 by westsideneighborhoodalliance
BY: CLIFFORD MICHEL
Housing Preservation and Development commissioner Vicki Been remained steadfast on the agency’s commitment to build and maintain 200,000 units of affordable housing on Thursday, despite the uncertain fate of 421-a and numbers that are slightly behind pace for the city’s goal.
During a hearing on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget, Councilman Ritchie Torres asked Been if achieving the mayor’s goal would still be attainable without the renewal of 421-a, which is set to expire this month, barring its renewal in Albany.
“We will deliver on our commitment under the housing plan no matter what happens. Am I going to say that if we don’t get what we want on 421-a the world will fall apart?” Been said. “We’ll figure out a way to get our work done.”
“That said, it’s absolutely critical,” she continued. “We expect about 25,000 new units of affordable housing through our 421-a reforms just over the time period of the housing New York plan, so that would be a major blow to come up with other ways of producing those 25,000 units.”
H.P.D. reported that, as of March, it has created and preserved 18,393 units of housing. Towards the end of her testimony, Been highlighted new H.P.D. initiatives in order to achieve the agency’s lofty goals.
“We’re preparing new R.F.P.s to capture opportunities on city-owned sites and ensure a robust production pipeline for coming years,” she said. “We also have a new focus on small buildings owners to lock in affordability in neighborhoods across the city where rents are increasing. We just launched our new green preservation loan program to assist owners in small to medium-sized, multi-family buildings by financing energy efficiency and water conservation projects in exchange for affordability.
“Our Enforcement in Neighborhood Services is revamping its operations in order to increase the number of E.N.S. inspectors who are out in the field, to improve our customer service, and to bolster our internal controls. And we continue to improve our housing connect so everyone has equal and easy access to affordable housing.”
Council members also criticized the small amount of funding for H.P.D. from the state, which provides H.P.D. with just over $1 million.
“We have to engage with the state so much around housing and to have that sliver is incredibly frustrating,” said Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the finance committee’s chair.
“If you have glasses and you’re too far, you’re going to miss that if you don’t have your glasses on,” said Jumaane Williams, the Committee on Housing and Buildings chair, in reference to a pie chart presented at the hearing which indicated federal, state, and city funding for H.P.D. “And they have undue amount of influence on what happens here in the city while not putting their purse strings where their mouths are.”
Been thanked council members for their attempts to influence the debate in Albany, which included a protest yesterday at the Capitol where Williams and other officials and activists were arrested.
“We thank you for your efforts in Albany yesterday and over the last few weeks,” she said, adding, “We want to commend you for your arrest and also for working so hard this morning.”