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Quinn proposes one-stop shop for affordable housing (which takes Ratner out of the loop)

If City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has her way, people who seek affordable housing in Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project won't have to go through the developer (and be solicited to be a project advocate).

Rather, there will be a one-stop shop. From Quinn's State of the City address yesterday:
In fact, if you were to rank the biggest problems in New York City based on the number of calls and emails we get at the Council, then housing would be number one.
We can’t keep New York City a place that is growing and diverse if people of every income can’t find an affordable place to live. And when I say a place that’s affordable, I don’t mean a place that’s falling apart.
So let’s talk about one of the most frequent housing calls we get. Even as we work to create more affordable units, New Yorkers tell us it’s incredibly difficult to access the ones we’ve already built.
That’s because in a 21st century world - where you can do everything online - we still make people apply for housing using 18th century technology.
If you want to enter an affordable housing lottery, in most cases you actually have to send a postcard to the developer – of each individual building - then wait for them to mail you the paperwork, fill it out and mail it back.
So we came up with a common sense solution – a one stop online application for affordable housing. Your information will be saved, so you can apply for any housing lottery with the push of a button.
We’ll be able to update you when new buildings are available – and you can check
the status of your application online.

This will help New Yorkers find an affordable apartment more quickly. But what about those who live in places where rent protections are about to expire?
Buildings in many programs, like Mitchell-Lama, are only guaranteed affordability for 20 or 30 years. That means for every unit we build today, an affordable apartment that was built in the 80s is being lost. As we speak, there are buildings out there about to lose their affordability – and tenants might not even know.
At the heart of this issue is something that may surprise you. There is no official system for tracking affordable housing in New York City.
Even Nathan’s in Coney Island has a countdown clock - to tell you how many minutes until the next hot dog eating contest. But we don’t have anything to tell us when thousands of rent protected apartments are about to become market rate.
We find out at the last minute, and have to scramble to work out a deal with the building owner.
Sometimes we’re successful, like when we were able to preserve 419 apartments at West Village Houses, or 76 homes at Mother Zion Apartments in Harlem. Sometimes we’re not, like when 1300 affordable units were lost at Independence Plaza in Tribeca. And all too often, we’re left saying – if only we had more time.
That ends today. Majority Whip Al Vann, Public Housing Committee Chair Rosie Mendez and I are partnering with NYU’s Furman Center. And we’re creating the first ever red alert system for affordable housing.
It will let us know how many affordable units we have, what program created them, and when their affordable protections run out. Then we’ll work with Council Members and tenants to develop a targeted preservation strategy – before it’s too late.

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