The head of the state Assembly’s housing committee has some ideas about how to spend George Pataki’s $2 billion election-year budget surplus. Brooklynite Vito Lopez–who tells City Limits he is leaning towards a run for Congress this fall–has unveiled an ambitious plan to increase the state’s spending on housing from $115.6 million to $297.6 million.
Full acceptance of the $182 million package isn’t likely from either Governor George or Lopez ally Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Still, Democratic party sources say Silver will probably bargain for some elements of the plan during budget talks later this year.
The Lopez plan, which was the product of hearings and meetings with housing advocates, bankers, the New York City Housing Partnership, LISC and the Enterprise Foundation, includes plans to:
— Bboost the state Low Income Housing Trust Fund from $25 to $60 million.
— Double the state’s contribution to homeless housing from $30 million to $60 million.
— Create a state version of the federal low-income tax credit program which gives tax breaks for developers who build rental housing for the indigent and working poor.
— Inaugurate a $25 million anti-abandonment program to preserve apartment buildings in disrepair. Much of that money would go to local groups for housing organizing. Lopez would also slate an additional $12 million to local housing advocacy groups under the Neighborhood Preservation Program.
–Increase funding for the state Affordable Home Ownership program from $25 million to $60 million.
In releasing the plan, Democrat Lopez took a shot at Republican Rudy Giuliani, whom he supported in last year’s mayoral race. “The mayor and the governor have not made housing a priority,” Lopez says. “I’m trying to do something about it here…. I believe Shelly (Silver) will support a good portion of this. If we don’t get it this year, we’re never going to get it.” Silver’s office did not respond to inquiries about the plan.
Lopez also told City Limits he is seriously considering a 1998 challenge of Brooklyn Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, whose predominantly Latino district was redrawn recently to include more whites. “There’s a good chance. I’ll decide by the end of this month,” he says. “I’m the one who probably has the best chance of beating the congresswoman….Nydia has not built a relationship with people. She has not delivered for the community.” Lopez also said he could raise between $400,00 and $500,000 if he chose to run.
“It is our practice not comment on candidates who just say they might run,” says Velazquez spokesman Eric Brown.