Letter: Albany needs an affordable housing plan

Albany Times Union
To the editor
Friday, April 28, 2017

Albany deserves praise for envisioning a prosperous future for its residents through an engaging rezoning process. But, to echo the editorial “Housing for all in Albany,” April 12, Albany must incorporate a plan for affordable housing if it is to be truly inclusive of the needs of the community, and that plan should not overlook the city’s small buildings.

Small multifamily buildings are the backbone of New York’s housing stock. Most low- and moderate-income renters call them home, and they are an irreplaceable resource of natural affordability, often renting below market. They tend to be older, more distressed, and their owners often lack the means to maintain their physical and financial health.

Resources and assistance in navigating the complexity of grants and tax credits will help make it easier for small building owners to participate in affordable housing programs. Additionally, with 2,400-2,800 vacant residential structures in the Capital Region — 35 percent of them “zombie properties” as indicated by the recent “Breathing Lights” findings — there’s an opportunity to renovate and repurpose existing, abandoned housing to stabilize these neighborhoods while also meeting their affordable housing needs. With an estimated $100 million to $200 million needed to rehab them, the city should consider leveraging private investment to help stretch the impact of their public dollars.

As a nonprofit affordable housing and community revitalization lender, we at The Community Preservation Corp. have seen the success cities can have when they combine the power of government programs with like-minded private investment. Public/private partnerships bring in new financial resources and leverage the expertise and creativity of each partner in solving the unique challenges facing communities.

Albany is on the right track for creating a successful growth strategy for its communities; we just need to utilize every resource to accomplish it.

Michael Skrebutenas

Senior Vice President and Capital Region Regional Director, The Community Preservation Corp.