HPD will permit architect self-certification and expand M/WBE developer opportunities. On October 7, 2014, Commissioner Vicki Been of the NYC Housing Preservation and Development gave the keynote address to the annual luncheon of Women in Housing and Finance. Commissioner Been elaborated on and announced new HPD initiatives to advance Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.
Commissioner Been first announced a reorganizing of some HPD activities into a new Neighborhood Strategies division, headed by Deputy Commissioner Daniel Hernandez. Commissioner Been stated the new division will focus on planning, inclusionary housing, and community partnerships to ensure neighborhood stakeholders are served while advancing the Mayor’s housing plan. Commissioner Been emphasized the importance of working with community-level actors, calling it “…one of the hallmarks of our attempts to make the city’s buildings more energy-efficient and also to lock in affordability in the neighborhoods.” Commissioner Been also addressed the increased coordination between HPD and other city agencies, including the Department of City Planning and the Economic Development Corporation. The coordination is to make sure necessary infrastructure develops at the same pace as HPD’s new or rehabilitated housing, so residents will not lack for services. Commissioner Been also stated that City Planning is now playing a “central coordinating role” in HPD’s capital budget. The Commissioner stated this would increase the coordination and efficiency of allocating HPD’s capital funds, saying “I think that’s going to make a huge difference in bringing everything together in the neighborhood at the same time.”
Commissioner Been then addressed costs involved in development. The Commissioner stated HPD has revisited the design and architectural review required for developers in the inclusionary housing program, and that the department will be replacing what the Commissioner termed “a long, iterative, and painful” review process with a system of architect self-certification enforced by audits and “vastly reduced” design guidelines. The Commissioner recognized self-certification is controversial, with lower security than the current process and a history of poor enforcement among other agencies. She responded by claiming “We believe we can build a robust audit and enforcement mechanism, and we think we can accomplish much of what we are accomplishing [now] at a much-reduced cost in time and effort.”
Commissioner Been later spoke to the Mayor’s commitment to increasing the number and capability of minority- and women-owned (M/WBE) development firms to participate in HPD developments. The Commissioner announced a course for M/WBE developers to expand capacity, the formulation of a pre-qualified list of M/WBE developers that may competitively bid for a dedicated pipeline of City-owned sites, and a program of favorable financing through City funds for qualified M/WBE developers. The financing program is available now, but the commissioner acknowledged the M/WBE pipeline program required enabling legislation from Albany that, according to the Commissioner, Governor Cuomo is expected to sign shortly.
The Commissioner ended by addressing technological improvements at HPD. The Commissioner announced a simplification of the online Housing Connect lottery system to make it more accessible to the disabled and ESL applicants. The Commissioner also announced an “E-rentroll” program designed to let property owners file information about their turnover. The Commissioner said that “This will let [HPD] monitor turnover to ensure that when units are re-rented they stay affordable and that they’re rented to qualified applicants from the households for which they were intended.”
Before the speech, Jennifer Trepinsiki of Women in Housing and Finance told CityLand that the organization was looking forward to hearing Commissioner Been speak on the proposed staffing changes and HPD reorganization. Ms. Trepinski said that WHF’s membership are all involved in affordable housing, and “we’re very excited to hear who those folks are who will be joining HPD because we’ll surely be working with a lot of them in our day-to-day work.” The WHF was founded in 1981 to serve as a information and networking resource for women and men in the housing and financial services industries in the greater New York area. After the speech, Ms. Trepinski was approving of the presentation. In an email to CityLand, she said Commissioner Been’s comments “were quite thoughtful and robust. She talked about big picture efforts at the agency like neighborhood targeting and cross-agency collaboration and also, as hoped, talked about several “non-sexy” topics of interest to our membership such as administrative changes, efforts to standardize terms across programs and streamlining efforts for sponsor and architectural review.”
By: Michael Twomey (Michael is a CityLaw Fellow and graduate of New York Law School, Class of 2014).