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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Housing First! Releases Statement on Spitzer Remarks

DECEMBER 11, 2007
For information, contact:
David M. Muchnick
Coordinator, Housing First!

Statement of Housing First! on the Remarks of Governor Eliot Spitzer to the New York Housing Conference - National Housing Conference Annual Luncheon, at the New York Hilton, December 11, 2007

"Housing First! applauds the governor's decision to address the New York Housing Conference's annual luncheon as emblematic of the new spirit of communication developing between Albany and the state's affordable housing industry," said David Muchnick, the organization's coordinator. The Housing Conference luncheon has long been the industry's pre-eminent venue for elected officials speaking on affordable housing issues.

"We are genuinely enthused by the concern, competence, commitment, and communication that appointees of the Spitzer administration have brought to HFA, DHCR, and the state's other housing agencies," added Denise Scott, the organization's co-chair.

"We are gratified by the governor's saying his administration 'will work to have a meaningful and significant increase' in funding for affordable housing in this year's budget," Muchnick said. "But, we regret that he gave no indication as to how that will be achieved."
Housing First!'s platform calls for a public investment of a little over $1 billion a year for ten years to meet the state's diversity of urban, suburban, and rural affordable housing needs in an effective way.
"This investment can be an engine of smart growth, economic development, business expansion, job creation, income generation, and environmental conservation. And, it can pay for itself over time," Scott explained. "Over time, we want to bring the administration around to our vision of affordable housing investment as a key driver of the state's mainstream economic development and smart growth policies as well as one that meets critical social and community needs."
Immediately, even with the state facing a reported $4 billion deficit, Housing First! proposes that next year's budget include two measures which could supply about $200 million in new funding for affordable housing.
"First, there should be a $100 million dollar increase in the current capital funding level for the state's existing housing programs," Muchnick explained. "This would be a positive step after a decade in which capital funding was essentially flat and the state's housing shortage worsened."
"Second, HFA and SONYMA should be authorized to retain at least $100 million of their excess reserves and earnings and use them to produce and preserve more affordable housing," Muchnick said.
"This simply reflects principles of good business and sound management," he explained. "These authorities have solid portfolios, substantial assets, and professional management that is increasingly responsive to affordable housing needs. They should use their excess annual earnings and accumulated reserves to expand their affordable housing programs rather than having the Division of the Budget effectively take their profits and reserves to meet the needs of the state's general fund."
"From 2003 to 2007, some $463 million in surplus reserves and excess earnings -- an average of nearly one hundred million dollars annually -- were transferred from HFA and SONYMA to balance the state's budget," Muchnick pointed out. "By comparison, from 2004 to 2007, New York City's Housing Development Corporation used $493 million of its accumulated corporate reserves to finance production and preservation of 30,838 affordable units, according to the city's Independent Budget Office."
"These two measures are the bare minima," Muchnick added. "They are nowhere near on a par with tax rebates for existing homeowners, but they are a start." Tax rebates for existing homeowners, whose costs have been increasing faster than their incomes for more than a decade, could total about $2 billion dollars combined in this year's and, presumably, the coming year's budget.
About Housing First!
Housing First! is a broad alliance of more than 300 diverse organizations who are united by their dedication to developing and sustaining affordable housing for all New Yorkers. Since 2001, Housing First! has fought to focus the public's and the public-sector's attention on the absolute necessity of investing greater resources in the construction and preservation of affordable homes and apartments.
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David M. Muchnick
PO Box 231268
Ansonia Station
New York, NY 10023-0002

phone 212-957-0848
fax 212-957-0646

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