Friday, February 29, 2008

The city's pension funds finally take on "predatory equity"

When in November, I reported on a conference where participants discussed the practice of "predatory equity"--investment funds making speculative investments in rental housing, intending to raise rents significantly--I was astonished that only the grassroots policy publication City Limits had previously covered the story.

After all, housing advocates had discovered that city pension funds had a stake in such investment funds. Politicians like City Council Member Letitia James weren't making a huge case about it, either, apparently waiting to get New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson and the city pension funds on board.

New policies

Yesterday, the above parties, as well as other elected officials and housing advocates held a press conference in which they announced a new residential real estate investment principle:

* Engaging building management to ensure fair treatment of tenants, especially in instances when ownership changes;

* Creating an “investment opt-out,” under which the Pension Funds can decline investing in individual properties that might adversely affect tenants and affordability; and,

* Encouraging new affordable housing opportunities to be presented to the Pension Funds in response to their open RFP for Economically Targeted Investment (ETI) Programs, which would protect and preserve the affordability of buildings. ETI objectives are to provide the Funds a market rate of return that is commensurate with the risk assumed, to fill capital gaps in New York City, and to provide specific quantitative or qualitative benefits to New York City and, in particular, its low-, moderate- and middle-income communities and populations.


It should go without saying that this would have more of an impact on affordable housing than the delayed units promised for Atlantic Yards.

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