Rare Win for Affordable Housing Over Gentrification

Source: Habitat Magazine, March 1, 2017

In a vote watched closely by opponents of the gentrification now sweeping Brooklyn, shareholders at the 326-unit St. James Towers co-op in Clinton Hill have voted to remain in the affordable Mitchell-Lama program instead of going to market-rate sales. The vote was a victory for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has vowed to add and protect thousands of affordable housing units in a city that is becoming less affordable by the day. The vote was also a blow against the wave of gentrification that is particularly visible in Brooklyn, Manhattan and parts of Queens. … There are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue. Opponents of privatization, like Cumbo, view it as a threat to a vital, and beleaguered, piece of the city’s housing stock. Proponents of privatization counter that after serving the required time in the Mitchell-Lama program, with its tax breaks and limited resale prices, shareholders are entitled to reap the rewards of the city’s currently hyper-inflated real estate prices. Last week’s vote at St. James Towers was the second in the three-step process of privatization, each of which requires approval by a two-thirds super-majority of shareholders. In the first vote, held in 2014, a sufficient number of shareholders voted to authorize a privatization feasibility study. Last week’s vote was on whether or not to authorize the money to prepare an offering plan. A third vote, which will not be held, would have determined whether the co-op stayed in the Mitchell-Lama program or went to market-rate sales.