State tax break, looming issue of gentrification
GERREN KEITH GAYNOR Special to the AmNews | 6/27/2012, 3:54 p.m.
"Neighborhoods that are beginning to gentrify even more rapidly in areas of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant used to have affordable housing and good housing stock," Jones said, but "are easily beginning to price people out of the ability to afford that kind of housing."
The J-51 program has become a hotbed for the real estate industry, with a price tag that is unmistakably costly. The CSS report found that over a 10-year period, the total amount of tax exemptions and abatements had ballooned by more than 100 percent, after inflation. In 2011, the total city costs for the program towered over $256 million, making it the second largest expenditure the city makes from its own resources, the report said. To put that number in perspective, it costs more than the entire annual expense budget for the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, after the subtraction of the department's federally funded Section 8 vouchers.
The program's pricy undertaking is why CSS analysts and housing advocates strongly advise that state legislators not pass the bill under its same conditions. CSS recommends that the new bill, which is set to be voted on in the Assembly, eliminate all benefits for co-ops and condos except those being developed with government assistance, enforce better rules for the coordination of the J-51 benefit with rent increases and eliminate the exemption benefit to offset high-end developments.
So far, the J-51 bill, unchanged, has been passed by the state Senate. State Sen. Bill Perkins, who represents Harlem and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, told the AmNews that he and 12 other senators voted against the bill out of concern for the rights of tenants.
"Senators, along with tenant advocates, feel that this bill has been renewed every year without tenant protection," Perkins said.
"We want to see housing improve, but we don't want to see it improve in a way that costs are passed on to tenants and therefore forces a displacement or radically changes the complexity of the community."
Housing Policy Analyst for CSS Tom Waters, who co-authored the report, said that while the bill was passed in the Senate, he doesn't suspect the same outcome in the Assembly, which is currently controlled by the Democratic Party.
The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill in the near future.