2009-11-20 / Top Stories

Paterson Announces Mitchell-Lama Reforms

Governor David A. Paterson announced the first comprehensive review and reform of New York State's Mitchell-Lama affordable housing regulations earlier this week. The revisions, proposed by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), will greatly benefit both the tenants and owners of Mitchell-Lama buildings.

"These regulations have not been fully reviewed since 1965, when they were first written and their outdated requirements fail both residents and building owners," Governor Paterson said. "Mitchell-Lama tenants are vulnerable to sub par housing and Mitchell-Lama building owners are burdened with unnecessary and often duplicative mandates. It is time that these laws work for all."

DHCR Commissioner Deborah VanAmerongen said: "Mitchell-Lama provides safe and affordable housing for tens of thousands of low- and middle income New Yorkers. But the regulations were often so burdensome that they helped to drive owners out of the program. The revisions will help us in our efforts to preserve and expand affordable housing in New York State."

Governor Paterson and Commissioner VanAmerongen also thanked the Affordable Housing Subcommittee of the New York State Bar Association, for the invaluable assistance and countless hours they provided to help update and reform the Mitchell Lama regulations.

The goals that DHCR used to guide the Mitchell-Lama reforms include:

Eliminating unneeded and overly burdensome regulations and streamlining procedures;

Focusing DHCR supervision on problem areas and strengthening the agency's enforcement capability;

Utilizing contemporary and best agency practices;

Conforming regulations to recent legislation and judicial decisions; and

Encouraging preservation of the portfolio as affordable housing.

The Mitchell-Lama Law was enacted to create housing for persons and families of low- and moderate-income. A total of 269 Mitchell-Lama developments with more than 105,000 apartments were built under the program. Owners of Mitchell-Lama housing receive publicly-sponsored mortgage loans and/or local property tax abatements in exchange for providing affordable rents and allowing DHCR to supervise their operations.

In July, Governor Paterson signed into law legislation that extends affordable housing for another 30 years to the tenants of the 5,881-unit Starrett City housing complex in Brooklyn - the nation's largest publicly assisted affordable housing complex. That law allows the owners to refinance the complex, providing at least $40 million for capital improvements to existing structures, facilities and apartment interiors, and as a result, Starrett City remains in the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program

The revised regulations will take effect on November 10. The complete revisions can be viewed on the DHCR website.

The following statements were given in support of the Mitchell-Lama regulation reforms:

Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson said: "The Mitchell- Lama housing program was established to create housing for low- and moderate-income families. The reforms announced by the Governor will ensure families struggling to make ends meet will still have affordable housing options and owners will have more incentive to remain in the program, a win-win for New Yorkers striving to succeed in these difficult times."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: "The Assembly is committed to increasing the availability and preserving the quality of affordable housing provided through the Mitchell- Lama program. We hope that reviewing these regulations will help to sustain this program, which benefits working people in New York City and upstate. This year, the Assembly once again passed legislation to preserve and expand the program, which will protect Mitchell-Lama tenants from being thrust into an extremely competitive housing market. I thank Governor Paterson and Commissioner VanAmerongen for evaluating this important program."

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, Jr., Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Housing, Construction said: "The Mitchell- Lama program is a vital source of quality, affordable housing for low and moderate-income and working families in the five boroughs and throughout the State. At a time when the City is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis and residents are experiencing financial difficulties during this economic recession, these comprehensive reforms will help maintain this important affordable housing stream."

Richard Singer, co-Chair of the Affordable Housing Subcommittee of the Bar Association, said: "My colleagues and I were happy to participate in the process of streamlining and modernizing the Mitchell-Lama regulations.

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