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Directory of NYC Housing Programs

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Classifying Housing Programs

In the Directory of New York City Housing Programs,  the following attributes are used to describe programs.

Program

The program’s name will be the most common term used to describe a given program. This may be words or a section of a law. When programs have multiple names, they will be cross-listed and appear as “related program(s).” 

Benefit Classification: Supply or Demand

Affordable housing programs, especially those involving direct government subsidies, can attempt to influence the supply of housing or to address the demand for housing. The Directory categorizes all programs as either “supply-side” or “demand-side.”

Supply-side programs seek to increase the supply of affordable housing by promoting the construction of new units or refurbishing vacant or substandard units, either through subsidies, tax incentives, or changes in regulation to reduce costs of construction. Supply-side programs, which target subsidies to a development or unit rather than to a household, have often been used to address community development goals, in addition to providing shelter benefits to individual families and households.

Demand-side programs generally provide individuals or households with assistance in acquiring, paying for, or maintaining housing. Demand-side programs, like Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, aim to benefit individual households through reducing monthly housing costs or improving housing quality, rather than to target community development. Demand side programs can provide neighborhood-level benefits, but their primary goal is to provide a benefit to households.

Benefit Classification: One-time or Ongoing Subsidy

Housing programs may be used to subsidize the cost of housing through a one-time subsidy, or to offset the ongoing operating costs of housing. This decision can affect the acquisition, construction, and operating financing associated with the program.

One-time subsidies, for example, include large up-front investments that subsidize construction costs (such as providing free land) or even by funding the construction directly (as in public housing). In the case of privately owned subsidized housing, this up-front investment can reduce the debt needed to finance the project, which will lower future operating costs and reduce the rents required to maintain operations.

Ongoing subsidies include programs like tax abatements or Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, which are used to reduce the annual revenue needed from tenant rents to support operating costs. Each subsidy structure has advantages in terms of cost, complexity, and efficiency. 

Benefit Type

Participants in housing programs can receive several types of benefits. Five types of benefits appear in the directory:

Government Agency(ies)

The Directory lists the government agency(ies) directly involved in the funding or administration of the program. Many affordable housing programs involve more than one government entity. For example, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) approves tax abatements for certain properties, while the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) actually issues the abatements. Both agencies are listed in the Directory entry for such programs.

Program Information

The Directory highlights two key program characteristics: scale of the program and timeframe of activity.

Scale: The Directory uses available information on construction starts to describe the number of units produced in New York City through each program. Projects often use more than one source of funds, so the unit counts cannot be summed to arrive at a total count of housing units started under multiple programs.

Timeframe: We define Program Start Year and Program End Year by its construction activity, loan closing or “start” dates. The first year a program was active is the date that the first unit in the program began construction or received funding for the first time. The program end date is the date the last unit supported through the program began construction or received funding for the first time. Occasionally, a program will lose funding for a given year or several years, but resume in subsequent budget cycles. These programs are listed as active even during those intervening years. Programs with end years of “present” were still providing housing subsidies as of June 1, 2011.

Developers/Owners

These are the entities that are eligible to sponsor projects that will receive benefits under the program. Developers/owners are primarily non-profit and/or for-profit entities. Occasionally the developer/owner is a government entity, a tenant, or the owner of a given unit in the building. The program benefit may accrue directly to a resident, as is the case with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, but it is usually a building developer or owner who obtains the commitment of program benefits. The program may require a change in building ownership after construction; for example, the New Homes Program allowed eligible for-profit developers to obtain subsidy commitments in order to build one- to four-family unit homes, which were then sold to eligible owner-occupants.

Property Information

There are often program eligibility requirements for the properties themselves. The Directory lists all categories of properties that are eligible for a given a program.

Property Occupancy:  Occupied Properties contain households with the legal authority to reside in them. Vacant Properties can be either buildings or land with no authorized residents. Programs vary in their treatment of unauthorized occupants; for some programs, buildings with unauthorized occupants are treated as Occupied Properties (and include a process to determine which unauthorized occupants can obtain authorization) and others are treated like Vacant Properties and involve an expectation that action will be taken to relocate or remove unauthorized occupants.

Property Type:  Property type is the ownership structure for the property when it enters the program. The options listed in the Directory are: privately-owned, publicly or city-owned, or owned by a non-profit organization.

Building Type: Building type refers to the number of units in the building. Multi-family refers to buildings with five or more units; one- to four-family buildings have four or less units. 

Construction Type: Programs that subsidize physical improvements to a property will often specify the property conditions at the start of the program. The Directory lists four categories of construction types: new construction (which implies that the property is vacant); gut rehabilitation (of an existing building); moderate rehabilitation (of an existing building); or demolition (or new construction on non-vacant land). 

Occupant Tenure

Programs vary whether they are available to occupants who rent their unit or who own their unit in fee simple, condominium, cooperative, or limited-equity ownership models. 

Occupant Income Restriction

Most programs measure household income in relation to the Area Median Income (AMI) defined annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As of 2011, HUD defines the AMI for the New York City metropolitan area as $81,400 for a family of four for most of its programs. Adjustments are then made for household size (i.e. 70 percent for a family of one, 80 percent for a family of two, 90 percent for a family of three, 108 percent for a family of five, and 116 percent for a family of six). Each government agency, and sometimes each program, defines the process by which household income eligibility is determined. Most income-restricted programs measure the total income of every occupant in the household against the AMI in effect at the time the household executes the agreement to occupy the unit. After initial occupancy, income recertification requirements vary by program.

Although terms such as “low-income” and “moderate-income” are commonly used in affordable housing, there are no standard definitions for what they mean; each program defines its income targeting differently. We have created broad income classifications for this directory; however, the reader is urged to go to the agency sponsor in order to learn the precise income rules for particular programs. Individual programs may carry more nuanced income restrictions that are often described in the narrative in more detail.

Other Targeting Information

In addition to the program attributes described above, affordable housing programs may also target existing or nearby residents; a particular geography; homeless or formerly homeless families or individuals; those with special needs; working adults; union members; elderly adults; families with children; etc. Generally one person in the household must meet the other targeting criteria for the household to be eligible to live in the unit. 

More Information

For each program, we provide a list of websites with additional information.