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In Grand Buildings, Manhattan's Hidden Supportive Housing

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Located on 27th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues, the Prince George sits in the heart of one of Manhattan's most expensive neighborhoods. Its famed ballroom is rented out for weddings, events, and even tv shoots for the Real Housewives of New York. One might think the upper floors of the ornate red brick building hold million dollar co-ops, but in fact the opposite is true. The Prince George is one of several opulent old Manhattan buildings used for supportive housing. The tenants are often formerly homeless individuals with mental illnesses or HIV/AIDS, and their stabilized rents are never more than 1/3 of their income.

In the 1980s, grand buildings like the Prince George, the Gouverneur Court on Water Street in the LES, and the pink brick Euclid Hall stretching between 85th and 86th Streets on Broadway, were decrepit, falling apart, and overrun with crime. The Times reports that the city sold the buildings to social service agencies, who would renovate and restore them for supportive housing. To fix up Euclid Hall, crews had to wear hazmat suits. Now the buildings are constantly sough after by real estate companies. The chief executive of Community Access, which owns Gouverneur Court, says he gets calls from developers every day who are interested in buying the building.

Real estate developers should stop trying to buy the buildings because even if the owners decided to sell, it would be nearly impossible to turn them into market rate housing. "It's difficult on purpose; you think we were born yesterday?" the city's assistant commissioner of supportive housing told the Times. "Someone might say: 'Gee, I changed my mind. I don't want to take care of the homeless and disabled anymore.'" The buildings have layers of financing agreements and regulations that require that the structures be used for supportive housing far into the future.
· Still Housing the Needy, In a Changed Manhattan [NYT]
Prince George photo via Property Shark