PRESERVATION PUSH

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Mayor Bloomberg outlined a host of initiatives last week designed to boost housing production. But new construction is only part of the plan: He also unveiled a broad effort to preserve existing affordable housing. The city has an estimated 250,000 units of subsidized rental housing, built through different government programs, some of which are now eligible to go market-rate. The mayor’s plan would keep these units safe and affordable by helping owners refinance their mortgages and obtain funding for capital improvements. The city also hopes to protect Mitchell-Lama builings through new state legislation, and to purchase mortgages held by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for properties facing foreclosure. “These strategies are vital to maintaining the overall stock of affordable housing and protecting the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who rely on these units,” states a summary of the plan. But some say the mayor could do even more to preserve affordable housing by boosting code enforcement and strengthening tenant protections. “As a city we stand to suffer a net loss of affordable units, even with this sizeable government investment, unless we win state approval to return oversight of rent laws to the city,” said Julie Miles, executive director of Housing Here and Now, an advocacy group. The City Council is considering a resolution calling for the repeal of the 35-year-old Urstadt Law, which keeps the city’s rent regulations in Albany’s hands. Mayor Bloomberg flip-flopped on Urstadt in the months before his re-election, expressing support for local control in a statement to the Daily News, but then declining to back the repeal when pressed by housing advocates. His office did not return several calls from City Limits seeking his current position. (C. Feldman) [2/27/06]