2009-11-20 / Top Stories

Sanders, CC Members Demand Affordable Vet Housing

By Miriam Rosenberg

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. earlier this year with a Carlton Manor resident after money was funded to put cameras in the city housing building. City Councilman James Sanders Jr. earlier this year with a Carlton Manor resident after money was funded to put cameras in the city housing building. As the men and women of the armed forces return home after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of the City Council are asking the New York State Legislature to give these veterans priority to obtain admission in Mitchell-Lama housing developments.

Councilman James Sanders Jr., who is the chair of the Veteran's Commit - tee, joined Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilwomen Gale A. Brewer this week to announce a Council resolution asking the state Assembly and Senate to revise priority occupancy laws for the housing program to give priority admission in Mitchell-Lama housing developments to veterans of the Iraq, Afghanistan and Gulf Wars, as well as their widows and widowers, and to widows of Vietnam-era veterans. "Part of the agreement America has with its veterans is that we will put our life and limb in harm's way but the government will honor its commitment by means of housing, education and other benefits," said Sanders, a former Marine. "Today, the City Coun - cil re-affirms that it will honor its commitment."

The Mitchell-Lama program, which began in 1955, helps developers with funding in exchange for providing affordable rental and cooperative hous ing to moderate and middleincome families.

"This Veterans Day, we remember the great sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make for our country every day," said Quinn. "Unfor tu - nately, too many of them return to find they cannot afford a decent home for themselves and their families.

Deca des ago we built a preference into the Mitchell-Lama program, to help veterans returning from Vietnam to find affordable housing. We owe no less to those currently returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and I urge my colleagues in Albany to extend the same preference to them."

There are approximately 100 Mitch - ell-Lama developments in the city, four with open waiting lists in the Rocka - ways - Bay Towers on Beach 98 Street, Dayton Beach at 8000 Shore - front Parkway, Dayton Beach at 8600 Shorefront Parkway and Sea view Towers on Beach 31 Street.

In the last few years, two sites in Rockaway have opted out of the program.

Roy Reuter Houses, now known as the Sand Castle, was built in 1971. The program allows owners to opt out after the mortgage is paid, which the new owners did in 2006, making the building market-rate rather than regulated, affordable housing.

In 2006 the new owners of Ocean Park Apartments, two 26-story buildings with 600 units, left the program but went into the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program - a federal program to keep the apartments affordable. Ocean Park Apartments was built in 1969.

Gerald Grant, a disabled Vietnam veteran who runs a Veterans Outreach Program out of Sanders' office, has seen and experienced the problems veterans have in finding housing.

"There are a lot [of these vets] out there," said Grant, who added the problem is "getting them to come in and letting them know what is available and then directing them [in the right direction]."

Grant added that, "The information is not getting out there. When they leave the military there is so much bureaucracy."

There is transitional housing that is supposed to help former soldiers ad - just to civilian life, but the Vietnam vet says they do not provide the services they should. "If they [former soldiers] got the Mitchell-Lama list in their hands it would make it easier," Grant said.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that there are approximately 225,270 veterans living in New York City.

Many veterans groups disagree with that estimate, and believe there are closer to 300,000 veterans in the five boroughs.

On Wednesday, Newsday, using 2008 federal data released by New York Senator Charles Schumer and New Jer sey Senator Robert Menen - dez, repor ted that there are approximately 10,000 homeless veterans in New York City.

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