Future of affordable housing program challenged

Prominent lawmakers have been fighting to preserve a local affordable housing complex that has provided shelter for low and middle-income families for decades.

An apartment complex on Fifth Avenue is home to a diverse group of working families and retirees, but because of the booming real estate market and the expiration of an affordable housing program, the future is uncertain.

The 446 units in the Lakeview Apartment Complex at East 107th street & Fifth Avenue were built in the 1970's under a program called Mitchell-Lama. It gave property owners incentives, and tenants income based rents for a limited time. Unfortunately, they were faced with mounting repair costs and limited rental income, the property may exit the program, which is allowed by law - the fear is that affordability will be left behind.

"This is a monumental moment in our lives, and I am putting my faith in your hands," said Joann Lawson, President of the Tenants Association.

In recent years, the complex fell into some disrepair, and the mortgage went unpaid. In September 2016, the LIHC investment group took over.

"Since taking over the property, we have spent over $5 million funding shortfalls and paying for repairs out of our own pocket, but we need HUD’s support to preserve these homes in the long run," they said.

Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Adriano Espaillat have also reached out to HUD for help.

"It's about the future of our city. We cannot be a city of just rich people,” said Senator Charles Schumer.

"This building could go and the diversity of the people will disappear," added Congressman Adriano Espaillat.

Tenants said the scaffolding surrounding the complex has been there for years, with no signs of coming down. Hallways were spotless and notices informing tenants that new heaters and thermostats would be installed in their apartments. Many of the apartments have terraces, with courtyard or Central Park views. Rents range from under $1,000 to $1,776 for a 4 bedroom, 1.5 bath unit.

A spokesperson for the property owner, LIHC investment group, said they're urgently seeking a legislative solution to keep the apartments affordable. As it is, the Tenants Association president said there is a 10 year waiting list for vacancy.