NY Council Member Williams Wants to Fight Possible Corruption in Mitchell-Lama Projects

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Jumaane D. Williams. Photo Credit: William Alatriste, NYC Council

New York Council Member Jumaane D. Williams wants to fight possible corruption in the Mitchell-Lama housing program through a new law that would closely monitor the waiting-list.
Williams, who is Deputy Leader and Chair of the Committee on Housings and Buildings, introduced Intro. 1612 on May 10. It would require the Department of Housing Preservation provide an annual report on waiting lists for each Mitchell-Lama housing development. The Mitchell-Lama program provides affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families.
"Mitchell-Lama was an effective affordable housing program when it was first implemented," Williams said. "However, over the years the program has deteriorated and slowly disappearing. The program is plagued with a number of problems such as failure to follow waiting list rules, untrained boards, decrepit buildings, and sudden rent increases."
Under Intro 1612, the annual report would have to include information on the following: the number of unique applicants on the waiting list on the last day of the previous calendar year; the number of waiting list applicants who were not selected for occupancy in the last calendar year and people who were behind those applicants on the wait list but were selected for occupancy ahead of them; number of applicants who qualified for preferential selection in the Mitchell-Lama development in the last year: total number of complaints about the waiting list received within the last calendar year, including but not limited to complaints about the wait list process and preference shown to applicants; and, average percentage rent increase for the development.
Mitchell-Lama apartments are sold or rented through waiting lists kept by each development.
The program was created in 1955 by New York State Senator MacNeil Mitchell and Brooklyn Assemblyman Alfred Lama. The buildings who took place in the program received special low-interest mortgage loans and tax breaks in return for maintaining low prices. However, after 20 years the buildings are able to exit the program and sell units at market rate.
"Considering the housing crisis this City is in, it's imperative that we do all that we can to preserve and promote affordable housing. Seniors and working families are two groups that are especially impacted by a lack of affordable, quality housing. It's time we take stock of how many are in need, and reassess how to best approach this issue," Williams said.

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