It is a fact that New York City is facing a rapidly depleting stock of affordable housing. Over the last few years the City has seen an unprecedented number of affordable units disappear, largely due to the real estate boom that took place and is still taking place.
Today’s hearing on the proposed $1.3 billion purchase of Starrett City presents a clear example of how thousands of affordable housing units can disappear if we don’t take the necessary precautions to protect them.
Currently, one out of every four low-income families in New York City spends over 50 percent of their income on rent, and the vacancy rate for affordable rental housing in the City is at its lowest in a decade. There are approximately 250,000 families in New York City waiting for Section 8 vouchers and public housing assistance, and that list keeps on growing.
Everyone should be entitled to a place they can call home. This is why I introduced legislation this Congress – H.R. 44, the Stabilizing Affordable Housing for the Future Act – that will not only help the situation in Starrett City, but will also provide relief for all of our communities here in New York, and across the nation.
It addresses the need for affordable housing in several ways. This bill creates vehicles to revitalize "distressed" HUD-owned properties, which helps to keep those buildings affordable, and provides support for units undergoing repairs.
It is also meant to give New York City and other governments facing the same affordable housing shortage, the tools they need to preserve these options. By making it easier for local governments to purchase HUD-owned buildings that are slated for foreclosure, we can help preserve affordable housing opportunities for low-income families in the City, and across the nation. This legislation was developed in conjunction with local housing organizations, and will help communities nationwide preserve their city’s stock of affordable housing.
This is something that could help in the effort to save Starrett City. As the largest federally subsidized rental complex in the country with 5,800 units and 14,000 residents in 46 towers, the potential elimination of these units for low and moderate income residents is devastating.
We have an opportunity before us to make sure this community remains inclusive of the families that laid its foundation. The restaurant workers, hotel employees, and small business owners who work so hard everyday to keep these neighborhoods alive and vibrant, deserve to remain in their communities. But the bottom line here is that they can’t do so without having an affordable place to call home.
I know the City Council is working on legislation called “The Save Starrett City Law” aimed at allowing tenants in Starret City and in other Mitchell-Lama buildings to remain here. While this is encouraging, Starrett City presents a smaller picture of a much bigger problem in New York City. The harsh reality is that New York City and other parts of our nation are becoming down right unaffordable for residents.
Preserving affordable housing is not about stopping development of new buildings or the growth of communities, but it is about helping working families in New York, and across the country, to secure a decent, safe place to live in.
I want to thank Chairwoman Water for her leadership and work on the Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Housing and for holding this hearing. The issue of affordable housing is important for residents here in New York City, and for the people throughout our nation, who depend on access to safe, affordable housing.