The swift sale of the massive, largely rent-stabilized Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village apartment complexes, completed last month for $5.4 billion, generated an angry frenzy among affordable housing advocates, who argued they had little time to organize and fight the transaction.
Now that Starrett City, a 5,881-unit Brooklyn development for low and middle-income renters, is up for sale, it seems that affordable housing continues to be threatened in large blocks – despite a proposed City Council bill that might have affected this deal’s trajectory.
A Council bill introduced six weeks after the auction of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village (ST/PCV) was announced could help slow the Starrett City sale, buying time for its potential effects to be assessed. But the “Housing Impact Study Bill” has been idle since sponsors presented it Oct. 11, so there’s less chance the East New York property that’s home to about 14,000 will be a test of the proposed provisions.
The bill would require owners of affordable housing complexes with more than 2,000 units to submit their plans to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development at least 120 days before putting it on the market. It was co-sponsored by councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick.
The bill has been introduced, but not presented for a hearing and vote yet, Garodnick said last week. “It would give a time period to consider the implications of the transfer of so many units on tenants, whether there would be any changes to the property, things like that,” he said.
Mendez is planning to meet with internal staff members soon to review the bill before sending it to the council for a vote, according to her chief of staff, Lisa Kaplan.
The 120-day waiting period could be beneficial, said Dave Hanzel, policy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. “I think fundamentally, time is important. With Stuy Town, a lot of people were caught off-guard.”
Still, he was skeptical about how much the law would have altered that deal, in part because Mayor Bloomberg was reluctant to intervene in a market transaction by a private owner.
“In that sense, I don’t think the Mendez bill would help Starrett City, because the Mayor would be consistent in saying that if it’s on the private market, he won’t step in,” Hanzel said.
Had the bill been in place, however, it could have affected the Stuy Town sale by slowing the process, Kaplan said. “It would have made it a requirement that [the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development] at least look at it, and would have allowed residents to make their voices heard or agencies to respond to the concerns,” she said.
Starrett City, a 30-year-old development on Jamaica Bay, is owned by a group of partners known as Starrett City Associates. They decided to auction the property after receiving some unsolicited offers, said Martin McLaughlin, a spokesman for the partners. Several years ago the owners renamed the complex Spring Creek Towers, but it is still widely called Starrett City.
The 46-tower complex is not entirely comparable to ST/PCV, Hanzel said, and the differences may help Starrett City remain an affordable housing option.
Unlike ST/PCV, where residents are mostly rent-stabilized, Starrett City is the largest federally subsidized development in the country. About 90 percent of residents reportedly receive some kind of city, state or federal government subsidy.
The new owner may, therefore, be less inclined to push out subsidized renters and forego the tax relief that comes with federal assistance, Hanzel said.
But, with the Housing Impact Study Bill still hanging, it’s possible that Starrett City’s sale could change the income makeup of residents. “After Stuy Town sold, I can see why the legislation hasn’t gone anywhere,” Hanzel said. “That chance passed, until Starrett City came around and we realized that there are going to be more of these.”