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East Harlem Landlord Hopes to Opt Out of Mitchell-Lama

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One of the last state-guaranteed affordable housing complexes in East Harlem may be under attack, as the landlord of the Lakeview Apartments at 4 East 107th Street recently announced plans to remove the building from the aging Mitchell-Lama program, The Daily News reports.

The Mitchell-Lama program began in 1955 to develop affordable housing for middle-income families. Residents pay no more than 30% of their household income, in exchange for tax abatements, a guaranteed investment return, and other incentives for landlords, who have the option to leave the program after 20 years. Although buildings constructed before 1974 will be rent-stabilized upon leaving the program, the rent in newer buildings like Lakeview Apartments can immediately be raised to market-rate. Many longtime residents are now in danger of losing their apartments, should Maine-based landlord Charlie Gendron opt out of the program.
Gendron says that the building is not profitable and needs $30 million in repairs. However, tenants blame condition on the neglect of previous owners. Likewise, Borough President Gale Brewer calls Gendron's argument "disingenuous;" the state provides interest-free loans and other options to landlords to finance capital improvements, which 14 Mitchell-Lama companies have taken advantage of since 2007.

According to longtime resident and Lakeview Tenant Association head Jo Ann Lawson, once the building leaves the program, one-bedroom units will jump from $847 to $2,000/month, while four-bedrooms would go from $1,776 to $4,500/month.

"I can take in a movie if I want, I don't have to choose between whether to eat or pay rent," said Lawson. "To pay rent in New York nowadays, I'd have to eat cat food. I don't want to lose what I have here."
· EXCLUSIVE: Landlord eyes plan to remove East Harlem apartment complex out of decades-old affordable housing program [NYDN]