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Dozens of 'Affordable' Houses Sit Vacant After Over a Decade: Report

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How did HPD let vacant properties intended for affordable housing sit vacant for so long?

Affordable housing is more necessary than ever in New York City—that's an undeniable fact at this point. But a report recently released by Public Advocate Letitia James's office reveals that one of the programs intended to provide it—the HPD's Neighborhood Homes Program—has in fact let many of the properties created under the plan sit vacant for more than a decade. (h/t Gothamist)

The program, which began in 1998, was meant to encourage the development of affordable housing for low-income families, but per James's statement, it has instead "allowed precious affordable housing units to remain unoccupied and deteriorate." According to NYU's Furman Center, the program was supposed to "transfer[] occupied, city-owned one- to four-family residential buildings to selected community-based sponsors for rehabilitation and eventual sale to owner occupants." But James's report reveals that in many cases, that did not happen.

The worst offender is a developer called Moore Better Homes Housing Development Fund, Inc. In 2002, the developer acquired 26 vacant homes in Crown Heights through the HPD, with the intent to rehabilitate them and sell them within 18 months, per the Neighborhood Homes Program's rules. But James's office found that 17 of those properties remain vacant and in worsening shape, more than a decade after the acquisition first took place. Even worse, some potential homeowners made down payments on the houses that Moore Better promised to rehab, and haven't seen any return on those investments.

The report is especially damning for HPD, because the agency could, in theory, seize the vacant properties from their current owner (a for-profit division of Moore Better called Heights Houses, which assumed ownership of the homes in 2007). "The very agency that is entrusted with preserving and providing affordable housing in New York City is in fact the body that is keeping New Yorkers from the homes they need and deserve," James said in a statement.

The report also includes recommendations on how to rectify the problem, including having a "third-party non-HPD party" monitor the program; you can read the full thing, along with testimonials from people who've been impacted negatively by the fraud, at James's website.