Claire Altman Reflects on the NYS Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) 16th Annual Conference



Claire Altman, Capalino’s Director of Affordable and Supportive Housing Services, joined 1500 housing leaders at The New York State Association for Affordable Housing’s (NYSAFAH)  16th annual conference on May 13, 2015 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan.  The conference, which was attended by developers, not-for-profit, government officials, property managers, attorneys and consultants, provided a one day immersion course in all aspects of affordable housing.

The kick off panel featured HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, HUD Regional Administrator Holly Leicht, NYC Housing Development Corporation President Gary Rodney, and NYS Homes and Community Renewal President Marian Zucker. All of these agencies have added to their “toolboxes” of incentives and programs ways to preserve and develop housing affordable to those at the lowest end of the income scale through those working families who struggle to find housing even with two “moderate” incomes.  Some of these include: tax abatements, interest rate reduction programs, tax credit guarantees, loans for “green” housing preservation, and refinancing vehicles.

Here’s what we learned from the featured panelists and speakers:

The critical connection between health and housing

One entire session was devoted to City and State programs that are focused on housing as a tool to reduce unnecessary health risks and the attendant costs of care. Kristin Miller, Director of the NY Office of The Corporation for Supportive Housing underscored the importance of the NY/NY programs jointly funded by the NYS Office of Mental Health and Health that have created over 14,000 units for vulnerable populations over the past 24 years. The next round of NY/NY funding is under discussion currently.  A newer important housing finance tool came out of the deliberations of the State’s Medicaid Redesign Task Force (MRT). Now MRT funds are available for housing development that will help reduce the cost of care of high cost Medicaid users. This year over $40 million of capital funds are available in the MRT program. These are supported by an expected savings in Medicaid dollars given the role housing plays in reducing the over use of health care..

More Affordable Housing Tools

Other innovations include requiring 20% of affordable housing units to be for low and very low income families; the City Planning proposals for reducing parking requirements for affordable housing; co-locating Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) with housing developments; and having the Medicaid program pay for certain services in supportive housing.

HPD Director of Planning and Development for Special Needs Housing Ray Hodges explained that HPD is increasing incentives for developers to build supportive housing by relaxing some reserve requirements and approving developer fees that are reflective of the risk in the project, as well as encouraging joint ventures between for profit and not-for-profit developers.

Sean Fitzgerald of the NYS Department of Homes and Community Renewal explained their efforts to streamline funding so that a single unified application covers 12 different housing programs.  Of particular note is that State awards of tax credits for projects housing veterans will be awarded “early” to permit speedier development.

The New Harlem

Richard Roberts, former HPD Commissioner and RedStone Equity  Director, led a session on “the New Harlem.”  The 100+ people attending this session seemed to concur that for the “new Harlem” to grow and thrive, comprehensive development that includes schools, commercial establishments, cultural institutions, and open space along with housing is essential.

Innovative Financing

The Innovative Financing session chaired by David Walsh of Chase drew a standing room only crowd as the panelists from Citi Community Capital, Goldman Sachs, Gorman & Company, and Homeier & Law underscored the value of the EB-5 Visa Program  when combined with New Market Tax Credits, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and social impact bonds have for both commercial and housing development. These and other organizations have developed mechanisms to ease the use of combining these financing vehicles.

For  the energy and creativity which characterized this conference, congratulations go to Jolie Milstein, President and CEO of NYSAFAH, and Lisa Gomez, Chair, as well as their entire board and membership for bringing this valuable offering to the affordable housing sector.

NYSAFAH’s 2015 conference was presented in cooperation with NYS Homes and Community Renewal, NYC Housing Development Corporation, and NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.  NYSAFAH is New York’s premier trade association for the affordable housing industry.

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