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August 27, 2009

Documents show affordable housing guarantees considered but discarded; no apparent effort to ascertain if housing bonds were sufficient

Atlantic Yards Report

Big scoop here!

Norman Oder has been trying to get to the bottom of what assurances were made or discussed about whether or not the affordable housing component of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject would ever get built and, if so, when.

Documents he received, via Freedom of Information Law request, indicate that provisions that nearly guaranteed Atlantic Yards affordable housing were part of the drafts of the General Project Plan, but never made it into the final version.

These documents show that drafts of the official project documents included a requirement that the bonds for affordable housing be approved, along with a provision guaranteeing a percentage of the affordable housing in Phase II of the project. These requirements were dropped before the official vote to approve the project by the Public Authorities Control Board.

BondCap-AYR.gif

If the volume cap on available housing bonds, administered by the city and state, gets exhausted each year without room for Atlantic Yards housing bonds, the affordable housing component of Atlantic Yards could be jeopardized, or at least delayed well beyond the official decade-long buildout. Oder sought information as to whether this important issue was discussed before the official plan approval. One document shows it was, but the information was redacted. "The bottom line: they discussed it, but we don't know what they said."

So, did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), during its approval process for Atlantic Yards, evaluate whether there'd be sufficient tax-exempt housing bonds to meet the ten-year timetable for 2250 affordable units?

Documents received in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request suggest no; in fact, the state considered but rejected a General Project Plan provision that stated explicitly that approval was needed for affordable housing financing.

Thus, it's likely the ESDC board approved the project in December 2006--and will re-approve the project next month--without any assurances the affordable housing could be built as promised.

Moreover, the State Funding Agreement signed in September 2007 gives the developer a pass, asserting that a good faith application for housing bonds was expected to lead to their receipt--without evaluating whether such bonds would be available.

Also, it's not clear whether the ESDC can enforce any affordable housing requirements if the funding is not available.

Read on...

Posted by lumi at August 27, 2009 7:19 AM