In early 2009, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries introduced a plan he hopes will mend the affordable housing crisis in his neighborhoods of Brooklyn, including Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and parts of Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“The explosion of luxury condominiums in my district and the serious shortage of affordable housing continue to wreak havoc on our working families,” Jeffries said.
It was a leaking cup that he was resolved to refill.
The problem started around 2004 at the cusp of the condominium boom in Brooklyn: Luxury condos were replacing older housing stock across his district. By 2008, the market first began to sag. Yet condominiums continued to go up, far faster than they could be filled.
The result has meant less affordable housing for the district's residents, while brand-new condominiums sit vacant or under-utilized.
But Mr. Jeffries thinks he has a solution-- legislation he introduced in January 2009 called “Project Reclaim.”
Mr. Jeffries said, instead of incurring a growing financial loss to all involved in the purchase of an over-leveraged property, why not solve the problem in a way that is beneficial to both individuals needing better housing opportunities and to neighborhoods?
In August of 2010, Governor Paterson signed the legislation that turned Jeffries's idea into reality.
Project Reclaim hopes to encourage New York State to convert these unsuccessful buildings into affordable living spaces for the working class. This is made possible with the help of the New York State Mortgage Agency (SONYMA).
SONYMA will be working to refinance the empty and unfinished buildings as well as insuring loans to transfigure the buildings into something more affordable to the working families, middle class and the younger generation that’s currently moving into the area.
The bill relies on developers to reach out to SONYMA to utilize all there is to offer. There were 60 buildings that went to SONYMA after the bill was passed that were vacant and under construction. SONYMA could not be reached for comment on where those buildings stand today.
If taken advantage of properly, the bill offers the community the help it needs to revitalize and stimulate positive growth.
“The passage of this legislation incentivizes banks, provides families with real opportunities for investment, and helps New York City build more vibrant sustainable communities,” Jeffries says.