NEW YORK — State Sen. Michael Gianaris proposed legislation in Albany this week that would clear the way for the state to use federal funds to purchase distressed commercial property and convert them into affordable housing units for low income and homeless New Yorkers.
“You have hotels and commercial properties that are on the market for sale because of the shutdowns we’ve had,” Gianaris said.
The new housing should be managed locally, Gianaris believes.
“There are a number of nonprofit housing providers already in a city that can take on this responsibility.”
Gianairs hopes his legislation will be part of the current state budget negotiations.
“It can be as big or as small as we’re willing to dedicate ourselves to do.”
“It’s a good idea, but it’s a finite idea,” explained
Bill Wilkins is the Housing Director of Local Development Corporation of East New York said Gianaris’ idea can’t solve every housing problem in the city.
“It’s a good idea but it’s a finite idea,” Wilkins said. “We’ll get four or five hotels that maybe can play in this space, so we generate another 300 to 500 units of housing, our needs are hundreds of thousands.”
Wilkins also worried the idea would create housing in areas that are not traditionally residential,
“How can you put them in an isolated tower where there’s no cleaners, there’s no grocery store, there are no drugstores and expect them to live?”
The Real Estate Board of New York responded to Senator Gianaris’ legislation Wednesday.
“New York City will remain a global commercial hub by creating more dynamic central business districts through strengthened retail and small business sectors and producing much needed housing, including affordable units,” said REBNY President James Whelan in a statement. “To achieve this vision will require close collaboration between the public and private sectors and should include multiple options for commercial to residential conversions.”