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NYC Housing Authority offers development lots

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Five private firms will develop more than 1,000 units of low and moderate income housing in the south Bronx at four New York City Housing Authority sites, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development announced Tuesday, October 21.

All told, NYCHA will net $29 million as it scrambles to overcome a funding crisis and $170 million deficit. The result: more affordable housing, if not more public housing. An agency known for its high-rise projects, NYCHA is experimenting.

“NYCHA’s collaboration with HPD is generating creative solutions for expanding affordable housing in the city,” Tino Hernandez, the housing authority’s chairman, said.

Arista Development and Bronx Pro will renovate ten NYCHA-owned properties in University Heights, while Dunn Development, Blue Sea and TNS/CPC Resouces/Lemle & Wolff will construct new buildings on the grounds of Highbridge Gardens, Forest Homes and Soundview.

The University Heights properties. previously administered by private management at NYCHA’s expense, are vacant.

NYCHA worked with HPD to select the developers as part of an ongoing effort where sites are identified for the expansion of affordable housing – an effort Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr. congratulated. The two agencies began talks last year and released a request for proposals in late 2007.

“As the city’s population grows and the need for affordable housing increases, one thing that remains fixed is the supply of available land,” HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan said. “That is why it is so important that we make full use of underutilized properties owned by city and state agencies.”

The new development at Highbridge Gardens will consist of one or two buildings, yielding 219 units. It will be constructed on a sloping, wooded bluff overlooking the Harlem River. At Forest Homes, walkways and barbeque grills will make way for one six-story building of 100 units.

Two eight-story rental buildings – one for families and one for seniors – and 18 two-family townhouses will replace a parking lot and barbeque area at Soundview Homes. Ten renovated buildings in the neighborhood of University Heights will offer 494 rental units and 69 co-op units.

All the new rental units will be affordable to families of four earning less than $69,100 per year or less, and to individuals earning $43,000 per year or less.

“New affordable housing is something the city needs,” said HPD spokesman Seth Dolin. “And these neighborhoods will benefit from an increased mix of housing stock.”

Slashed federal subsidies – $1 billion since 2001 – have forced NYCHA to mine its own backyard. This fall, the agency opened 8,400 public housing units to Section 8 voucher holders. The vouchers, previously reserved for the tenants of private properties, are federally funded.

NYCHA has no immediate plans to develop or renovate other properties. But according to an agency official, “nothing is off the table.” NYCHA maintains 343 public housing complexes, 21 of which receive no federal, state or city funding.

Housing authority tenants and other south Bronx community members showed up for meetings to discuss the proposals, NYCHA and HPD representatives said.

“The developments are going to have a positive impact,” Donlin said. “They’ll create jobs and inject money into the Bronx – construction workers buying lunch from local pizza shops, for example. Long term, they’ll result in a healthier range of income levels.”

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