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State, city must add affordable housing

When we talk about affordable housing in the city, we are talking about two things: expanding the number of affordable housing units to meet the city's need and preserving existing units as affordable.

Investing in the development of 100 new affordable housing units does us little good when, during construction, 200 affordable housing units are lost to market rents or have disintegrated into disrepair — something happening at an alarming rate. According to testimony last year by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development at a state Senate Democratic hearing, "Each year, more than 14,000 apartments lose their affordability when they are removed from rent stabilization or rent control."

The development and preservation of affordable housing is one of the issues I work most on in the state Senate. In this real estate environment, when the market is busting at the seams and many renters have lost their voices, it is the government's job to protect families by protecting families' homes.

One major state initiative in my district will do that and serve as a model for us moving forward.

Gov. David Paterson and the state Housing Finance Agency recently announced a $20 million financing project at Baisley Park Gardens, an affordable housing development in Jamaica that is part of my district. Designated as Section 8 housing with 212 units, Baisley Park Gardens will benefit from a refinanced mortgage that will pay off the mortgage and provide needed funding for the property's capital improvements.

Very often in developments like these, there is no incentive for the owner to fix up the buildings or keep the units affordable. Thanks to this financing program, the residents will enjoy improved living conditions; in return, the property will remain an affordable development for 40 more years. This is a win-win for the community, residents and owner. The program follows the first real investment in housing in the state budget in years to the tune of $300 million, which is not enough.

Investing in affordable housing was once a priority in New York. Unfortunately, much of that funding has dried up in recent decades and a lack of vision has had devastating effects on our city, particularly in Queens. With 1 million more residents expected by 2030, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg predicted in his PlaNYC, and the Department of City Planning projecting one-third of the population to be elderly at that time (a group in need of affordable housing), we are in trouble if more is not done immediately.

The Baisley Park Gardens victory is a step in the right direction, but a one small step in a race against time. It is a tangible victory that helps hundreds of Queens residents remain in their homes and moves us toward the goal of an affordable, a safe and a maintained home for every constituent in my state Senate district.

Shirley Huntley

State Senator

(D-Jamaica)

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