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Condos for the poor

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A coalition of non-profit groups came to Downtown Brooklyn last week demanding the city take over troubled condos and stalled construction sites, and turn them into housing for very low-income residents.

The organization under the umbrella group, Right to the City-NYC (RTTC-NYC), came armed with a preliminary survey they did identifying 601 vacant condominium buildings citywide.

“Right to the City is working to document the full picture of empty condos and stalled construction in low-income communities,” said David Dodge, RTTC coordinator and one of the primary researchers on the project.

“Right now, the City is not sufficiently documenting this problem, so this research fills an important gap in the existing data.We are hoping the city will take a close look at these numbers and work with the Right to the City to make these vacant condos available to low-income people.”

The survey looked at four neighborhoods including Downtown Brooklyn, where they found 126 empty buildings or near vacant apartment buildings.

Dodge only provided two buildings in the Downtown Brooklyn area of the 126 sites, saying the rest will be released in coming months.

The two buildings include the Forte at 230 Ashland Place and Fulton Street, and the Be@Schermerhorn, 189 Schermerhorn Street. The 108-unit Forte recently went into foreclosure.

According to RTTC statistics, the 246-unit Be@Schermerhorn is 93 percent vacant and the condos have been on the market for over a year.

A spokesperson for Be@Schermerhorn said the building is still under construction and they expect to start closings in April.

Dodge said ultimately the RTTC would like to see the city or a non-profit developer take over the properties and suggested they become part of the city’s Housing Asset Renewal program (HARP), of which the city has already allocated $20 million to convert some condos into moderate-income housing.

However, RTTC would like to see HARP modified so that units converted through the program also be eligible to very low-income people.

Additionally, after the first year of this pilot program, the group is advocating for an increase in funding to ensure that more units are made available to those most in need of housing.

Several dozen people attended the rally on the Flatbush Avenue Extension, which also drew two local lawmakers, City Council member Letitia James and Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries.

“The luxury condominium steamroller has threatened to overrun low income and working families all throughout New York City. This survey helps to document the extent of the problem and provides a foundation for the government to develop an aggressive policy that will transform vacant, market-rate units in to affordable homes,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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