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Clinton Hill Mitchell Lama residents will vote on whether to go private

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Residents must vote on whether the St. James Towers should remain affordable or become privatized

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At a time when the de Blasio administration is desperately seeking to create affordable housing, a Clinton Hill building stands to lose 326 affordable co-op units. Apartment owners at St. James Towers, a building under the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program, will vote on whether they would like to advance a plan to privatize the property or if they would like to keep the current plan in place.

If owners vote to reject privatization, St. James Towers will continue under the current Mitchell-Lama program. Under this plan, the amount of profit allowed when reselling is extremely limited, ensuring that affordability is passed on to the next low- or middle-income New Yorker. Privatization, however, would allow residents to sell their homes at market rate value.

According to Crain’s, the residents are divided between whether to keep the building affordable or to sell and stand to make a sizable profit. Some tenants feel that other New Yorkers should have access to the building’s affordable units; others say the chance to sell for market rate is an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up.

While the city doesn’t interfere with the outcome of the vote, local officials are encouraging people not to cash out. "What you've got in your hands is the fate of this community," said Public Advocate Letitia James.

Many of the city’s aging Mitchell Lama co-ops have faced the same fate in recent years, with some—like the Financial District’s Southbridge Towers—voting to go private. While it can seem like a win for residents (who stand to make bank if they sell their apartments), privatization comes with its own challenges—namely, remaining residents will be subject to higher fees to live in the buildings.

In the case of the St. James Towers, the process consists of three votes and a two-thirds majority in either direction will determine the fate of the building.