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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
April 21, 2006
27% of Public Housing Tenants Face More Rent Under City Plan
New York Times

The New York City Housing Authority announced yesterday that it wants to raise the rents paid by tens of thousands of its better-off tenants. The move, the biggest change in housing authority rents since 1989, is intended to help close a budget gap that has widened as costs have shot up and federal financing has not, officials said.

The proposed rent increases, some as high as several hundred dollars a month over the next two years, would affect nearly 47,000 households with annual incomes ranging from $19,800 to as high as $100,000. They make up 27 percent of all authority households. The remaining 128,000 poorer households, whose rent is fixed at one third of their income, would be unaffected.

The housing authority's chairman, Tino Hernandez, said yesterday that the agency "is at a defining moment in its history."

If the authority does not solve the problem of its recurring deficits, Mr. Hernandez and other administrators said, it will exhaust its depleted reserves in less than two years.

The authority, the largest in the country with more than 400,000 tenants, last fixed rent ceilings, beyond which no tenant's rent could climb, in 1989. The aim of those "ceiling rents" was to encourage upwardly mobile families to remain in public housing, cultivating a socioeconomic mix that some say has been crucial to the authority's success.

Under the new proposal, a family with a household income of about $40,000 living in a two-bedroom apartment would see its monthly rent increase to $546 from $495 in two years.

The proposed change, which would be phased in starting in September and requires approval of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees all local housing authorities, comes on the heels of the New York authority's decision to impose increased tenant fees for everything from owning a washing machine and a dishwasher to getting a broken door fixed or a key fished out of an elevator shaft.

Mr. Hernandez announced several other steps being taken in what he called the authority's "seven-point plan to preserve public housing." Those steps include an offer from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration of $100 million to help the authority pay its bills while it continues to look for new ways to raise revenue and cut costs.

The authority also intends to ask for approval to use federal Section 8 housing money to subsidize 8,400 of 21,000 authority-run units that were built by the city and state in the 1950's and 1960's. Because those units no longer receive any state or city subsidy, they are said to account for nearly half of the authority's $168 million operating deficit.

A letter from Mr. Hernandez announcing the proposals was to be distributed to every household yesterday. The authority is planning to hold five town hall meetings next month, one in each borough, and a public hearing in early June.

Victor Bach, a senior housing policy analyst for the Community Service Society, a nonprofit group that works against poverty, said in an interview: "There is clearly a reason to increase the ceiling rents since they haven't been increased in 20 years, at a time when maintenance and operating costs have gone up. The question is whether they're being increased to reasonable levels, whether they will cause any undue hardship for tenants."

He added, "I think it's going to be an issue and a decision that's going to be a hard fight with tenants, who are very sensitive to the rent issue."

Indeed, interviewed last night, one New York City tenant — from the Baruch Houses, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan — said the $495 rent she pays now for a two-bedroom apartment would rise by 40 percent under the new plan.

The tenant, Damaris Reyes, one of the residents in the system with a higher income, said: "Not that the current circumstances don't warrant some kind of an increase. Clearly when expenses go up, you have to generate more revenue. It's really about what kind of services you will get."

The authority houses more than 417,000 New Yorkers; the average household income is $19,000. Nearly half the authority's operating revenue comes from rent; most of the rest comes from federal financing, which covers a declining percentage of the authority's escalating costs.

This year, the authority said it was facing a $168 million budget shortfall, largely as a result of enormous increases in energy and pension costs. Since 2001, it said, it has spent $357 million from its reserves to close repeated budget gaps; this year, for the first time, it no longer has enough reserves to cover the shortfall.

The new rent increase proposal, expected to generate $60.8 million by the 2009 fiscal year, would affect only the 27 percent of households that currently pay the ceiling rents. Their new rents would be based on apartment size and household income. The increases, over two years, would range from 10 to 40 percent.

Households making less than 60 percent of the area's median income, or an average of $29,119, would see their rents rise by 10 percent to $557 from $505. Those making between 60 and 80 percent of the median, or an average of $41,137, would see theirs rise to $624 from $515.

Authority administrators say the highest-income households currently spend as little as 10 percent of their income on rent. That percentage would increase to 15 percent — well below the percentage paid by poorer tenants. While the higher-income tenants' rents have remained capped since 1989, rents in rent-stabilized apartments in the city have risen more than 50 percent, officials said.

Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Housing Authorities in Washington, described the New York authority's proposal as "sound and well thought out."

She said: "Those are difficult challenges given the history of the funding levels for housing authorities. I think they've presented a balanced plan."

142,851 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Bucking nationwide trend, NYC housing market boils
19 February 2007

NEW YORK (AP) - The city's housing market is hot again in spite of a tepid market in many other urban areas, according to preliminary indications from real estate firms, The New York Times reported in Monday's edition.

Droves of New Yorkers are hunting for co-ops, condominiums and townhouses, sending prices higher, sparking bidding wars and jamming open houses, the newspaper said.

Both prices and the number of signed contracts rose in double-digit percentages compared with the same month in 2006, according to the city's three largest real estate companies.

Experts pointed to higher Wall Street bonuses, a strong regional economy and pent-up demand for the hotter-than-hot market. "For almost two years, they've been scared that the market would plummet and they'd end up like fools who paid too much," said Frederick W. Peters, the president of the Warburg Realty Partnership.

The market is hot across price ranges -- from studios in the East Village to mansions on the Upper East Side.

A report released last week by the National Association of Realtors showed that prices were falling in many metropolitan areas around the country.
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