Housing: The Next Generation / Power Builders

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New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH)
In its five-year history, this group of for-profit apartment developers has become an industry powerhouse, built on hundreds of millions of dollars from New York’s market in federal low-income housing tax credits, as well as the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and New York City Housing Partnership. NYSAFAH has been lobbying the Bloomberg administration on the implementation of the city housing plan. Prolific members include L&M Equities, BFC Construction Corp. and the Arker Companies.

New York City Housing Partnership
In 1982, Kathryn Wylde helped launch an ambitious effort to build affordable homes in blighted neighborhoods. In 2003, with Wylde at the helm of the New York City Partnership, its subsidiary Housing Partnership has just two to three thousand new homes slated for construction, over the next two to three years. Now, says Wylde, the Partnership must figure out a new way to once again bridge the private sector’s resources and the public’s housing needs. Among the ideas the Partnership is exploring: new strategies for assembling development sites and finding innovative financing strategies to clean up brownfields.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation/The Enterprise Foundation
These two “intermediaries” jointly administer the New York Equity Fund, which helps nonprofit development groups access affordable housing tax credit dollars and assistance turning that money into housing. In 2001, Enterprise took over (from the Partnership) the Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Program, which helps community-based landlords fix blighted buildings. The local LISC office, headed by former HUD official Denise Scott, is working to help community development groups obtain jobs for local residents on construction projects. LISC and Enterprise, like the Partnership, plan to help groups acquire sites for new housing.

Chuck Brass, New York City Housing Development Corporation
Last April, Brass took over the scandal-tainted city housing finance agency. HDC, which issues bonds and uses the proceeds to fund low interest loans and some grants for housing developers, will now grow in stature, having won a pledge from Mayor Bloomberg to commit $500 million in new HDC financing for mostly middle-income housing. Previously with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Housing Partnership, Brass has a rep as honest and likeable, but one source close to the agency says he makes decisions on his own: “The staff has no input.” Brass says that HDC’s funding decisions are sound. “I can’t guarantee that we’ll fund everyone,” he says. “But I encourage people to come forward with their projects.”

Since 1985, the national labor giant’s Housing Investment Trust has put $369 million into 14 apartment-financing deals in New York City. In 2002–after city employee unions pushed the city to put $135 million of their pension fund money into the housing trust–the AFL-CIO promised to invest another $500 million into housing here. The trust’s financing is market-rate, which is generally only useful for high-priced new housing construction, so it has financed mostly “80-20” deals where city tax breaks keep just one in five units affordable. But by investing in FHA mortgages, the union trust has been able to help preserve several Mitchell-Lama developments as middle-income housing. There is, of course, one catch: Jobs getting AFL-CIO cash must be done union.

Housing First!
Founded during the 2001 mayoral race, this coalition of community and labor groups, banks and advocacy organizations initially called for the city to commit $10 billion to create 100,000 new housing units and preserve at least 85,000 more. Housing First! takes pains to work with elected officials; while it held a demonstration at City Hall just before the mayor released his housing plan, it bears little resemblance to the rabble-rousing coalition that in the 1980s pushed Mayor Koch to devote most of his housing program to the poor. The group is now urging the Bloomberg administration and City Council to minimize cuts to the city housing budget.

Bill Traylor, Department of Housing Preservation and Development/Housing Development Corporation
Traylor was appointed this February to help make the mayor’s housing plan bloom. Bearing two titles–HPD deputy commissioner for development and HDC senior vice president for public finance–he will be in a pivotal place to help developers put together financing deals. Traylor, who’s on leave from the Richman Group, where he syndicated tax credits for affordable housing development, formerly ran the New York Equity Fund and LISC’s New York office. Community development groups that thrived under Traylor’s leadership of those organizations will now look to him to see whether he can now make the new affordable housing dollars, and development opportunities, accessible to them too.

Alan Wiener, American Property Financing, Inc.
Wiener served on the Bloomberg transition team that decided to retain HPD Commissioner Jerilyn Perine–a gig that reunited him with transition chief Nat Leventhal. Back in the late 1970s, Wiener was manager of HUD’s New York office, and Leventhal was Mayor Koch’s housing commissioner. Together, Wiener and Leventhal figured out how to use federal Community Development Block Grant dollars to fix up the city’s growing stock of abandoned buildings–and thus sparked an entire generation of urban redevelopment. Today, Wiener’s New York-based company is a leading lender and underwriter of development loans and helps Manhattan developers put together “80-20” deals.

Felice Michetti, Grenadier Realty Corp.
Michetti headed HPD under Mayor Dinkins, where she played a pivotal role in putting the Koch housing plan into action. Some say she never really left. The commissioner now heads Grenadier Realty Corporation, which owns or manages tens of thousands of apartments, many subsidized under government affordable housing programs. Michetti has been willing to find new financing to keep buildings from going market-rate. But just as importantly, the heavily networked Michetti maintains her connections with key decisionmakers in affordable housing business–and is willing to put them to work for other developers.

–Annia Ciezadlo, Alyssa Katz and Matt Pacenza

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