NYS passes bill to breathe new life into closed hotels as affordable housing

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The global pandemic has hit New York hotels hard, shutting some down for good. Now a new law has been passed in Albany aimed at converting distressed commercial properties into affordable housing. Photo credit: AP

By: Ilana Siyance

The global pandemic has hit New York City hotels hard, shutting some down for good. Now a new law has been passed in Albany aimed at converting distressed commercial properties into affordable housing.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the bill allocates $ 100 million to the Housing Trust Fund Corporation of New York to finance the purchase of empty hotels and offices and to redevelop them into rental apartments for New Yorkers. low income and homeless. The bill clarifies that qualifying properties are those owned and managed by non-profit owners. The apartments created would remain affordable over the long term. Half would be made available to the homeless and the other half to people earning no more than 80 percent of the region’s median income.

New York is not the first state to take such an initiative after the ravages of the pandemic. California already created a new $ 600 million program last fall to convert hotels and other properties into affordable housing. New York appears to be a good candidate for the plan, as around 20% of New York City hotel owners said last year they could stay closed permanently. In addition, the metropolitan area suffers from a shortage of around 772,000 affordable housing units for people with incomes below 50% of the region’s median income, according to a 2019 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The $ 100 million earmarked for financing, however, won’t cover very many conversions in New York City, as updating older properties with current residential code standards won’t come cheap. State Senator Mike Gianaris, the Queens Deputy Majority Leader who sponsored the bill, said he hoped funding could be further boosted by the $ 2 billion in federal aid in pandemic cases that have been fixed for NYS. “We have struggled to create the right kind of affordable housing in New York City for decades,” said Mr. Gianaris. “I hope this will give us a model for the future on how to really create housing for people who need it.”

Many affordable housing advocates back the bill saying the state should play a more direct role in building affordable apartments. “I think there is more than a symbolic victory here,” said Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director of policy at the Coalition for the Homeless.

According to the WSJ, the legislation, which passed both houses of the legislature, has yet to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to become law. A spokesperson for Mr Cuomo’s office said he was still reviewing it. Governor Cuomo’s annual budget already includes $ 100 million for property conversions, but that comes with fewer guidelines than the new bill would impose.




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