April 21, 2009

Assembly Passes Legislation To Preserve
Mitchell-Lama Housing, Protect Tenants

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Housing Committee Chair Vito J. Lopez and Assembly Mitchell-Lama Housing Subcommittee Chair Jonathan L. Bing today announced the passage of a legislative package to preserve thousands of affordable apartments units by strengthening the Mitchell-Lama program.

The package includes bills that would grant Mitchell-Lama participants in New York City the ability to increase rents based on rates established by the city's Rent Guidelines Board (A.2933/Lopez), while expanding protections for tenants in buildings whose owners withdraw from the program by subjecting their apartments to rent stabilization (A.857A/Bing).

The Mitchell-Lama program was created in 1955 to offer developers greater incentive to provide affordable housing by offering tax incentives and low interest mortgages in exchange for their long-term participation and assurances that rents would be kept affordable. More than 120,000 New York residents live in Mitchell-Lama housing developments, most of which are located in New York City. Other Mitchell-Lama developments are located in communities throughout the state including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany, Poughkeepsie and Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

"During this economic recession, access to affordable housing for working families is of particular importance," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "For more than 50 years the Mitchell-Lama program has been a source of quality affordable housing that has helped develop communities in New York City and Upstate. This year's Mitchell-Lama package prioritizes protecting tenants from being pushed into an extremely restrictive housing market during the worst economic downturn in three generations. It is essential to thousands of families that we maintain this important program."

"Working families in communities in New York City and throughout the state rely upon the availability of affordable housing, including Mitchell-Lama developments," said Lopez (D-Brooklyn). "Our legislative package helps to preserve thousands of New Yorkers from having to search for an apartment in an increasingly competitive housing market. Our legislation also increases incentives for Mitchell-Lama development owners to continue their participation in the program, thus ensuring many working families have access to affordable housing."

"Mitchell-Lama residents have spent decades improving their communities, but have now become victims of their own success as landlords look for ways to turn affordable housing developments into market-rate buildings," said Bing (D-Manhattan) "The legislation we are passing in the Assembly today will allow these residents to remain in their homes and enjoy the benefits of their years of dedication to their neighborhoods."

Tenants in Mitchell-Lama housing would be protected from potential violations of housing laws by requiring the New York City Housing Preservation Department and the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal to investigate complaints and issue appropriate penalties (A.859/Bing). The legislative package also includes a bill that would require Mitchell-Lama companies to notify tenants in advance when they are planning to opt out of the program (A.2361/Lopez). The bill would also require owners to notify residents of the date on which they plan to withdraw from the program and of rent increases that they will incur as a result of the dissolution.

The Assembly package also includes legislation (A.2498/Pretlow) that would subject former Mitchell-Lama units located outside of New York City to rent stabilization following the voluntary dissolution of a Mitchell-Lama company.