One of the biggest concerns of voters in Yonkers, Westchester and New York State is affordable housing. Over the past eight years, under the leadership of Mayor Mike Spano, the city has been able to create hundreds of new affordable housing units and has spent more than $250 million restoring almost 2,000 units of existing affordable housing.
Two years ago, Spano announced that the City of Yonkers would begin its most ambitious affordable housing restoration in its history. “After five years of negotiations, we are now finally embarking on the rehabbing and revitalization of more than 1,700 municipal housing units,” he said in 2017.
“This rehabilitation program is the first major renovation of these units since the city began building them shortly after World War II. So I think it’s appropriate to say, it’s about time. And In 2013, together we passed the city’s first Workforce Housing Ordinance, ensuring we are providing quality and affordable housing for working families, young people and seniors.”
Spano has always advocated for stronger rent protections and has created affordable housing requirements from new development projects. So while there is an economic boom in Yonkers, with many units of market-rate housing popping up along the waterfront, Spano has been able to ensure that 10 percent of those units are reserved as affordable housing, or obtained from the developers’ funds to create affordable housing units across the city.
With almost 4,000 of new housing units build during Spano’s eight years in office, that’s nearly 400 units of affordable housing created in Yonkers. Combine that with the 1,700 units of affordable housing already rehabilitated or currently under repair, and under Spano’s watch, more than 2,000 units of affordable housing have been created or rebuilt.
“In 2013, my administration and the City Council passed the city’s first ever Workforce Housing Ordinance, ensuring we are providing quality and affordable housing for working families, young people and seniors,” said Spano. “And in the last few years, we’ve worked hard for the rental assistance demonstration program.”
A combination of local, state and federal partnerships and grants have breathed new life into Yonkers Municipal Housing buildings and apartments. Under the leadership of Municipal Housing Director Joe Shuldiner and L+M Development Partners, the co-developer and general contractor for several projects, the William A. Walsh Homes at 75 Walsh Road and William A. Schlobohm Houses at Schroeder Street have undergone major renovations.
Repairs are also being made to John E. Flynn Manor at 334 Riverside Ave., bringing the total cost of the three projects to $100.4 million. Funding for the extensive renovations was provided by the State of New York Homes and Community Renewal, and most of the cost of the renovations of Yonkers Municipal Housing apartments have come from state and federal grant money, and creative public-private partnerships.
“Yonkers is committed in providing quality homes to our affordable housing stock,” said Spano. “These renovations breathe new life and energy into the lives and homes our residents. I want to thank all our federal, state and local partners in making the funds available for this much-needed investment, as well as MHACY’s board and its Executive Director Joe Shuldiner for his leadership and perseverance in ensuring our residents live in safe and healthy environments.”
The Schlobohm Houses complex, located in the downtown area, consists of eight elevator buildings. Each is eight stories and is easily accessible to public transportation, medical services, restaurants, shopping and places of worship. The complex has one-bedroom to four-bedroom units, and there are multiple handicap accessible units on the property.
Shuldiner said renovations are currently going on in 1,300 units of affordable housing throughout the city that should be completed by the end of 2019. MHACY is working on obtaining additional funding to complete the rest of the units by 2020, he said.
“When it comes to projects like these, we are moving at lightning speed,” he said. “Through RAD, we have been able to leverage private investment through tax credit incentives to improve our housing stock and create hundreds of construction jobs. We would not have been able to do any of this without the help of New York State, and in particular, our local delegation and Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo.”
Tenant Council President Elizabeth Owens, who has lived at Schlobohm since 1974, called the renovation “wonderful,” saying this is the most extensive renovation residents have seen to date.
Spano credited the state with stepping in to help fund the renovations, as the role of the federal government diminishes in providing, safe, decent affordable housing. “With nearly $3 billion in private investment pouring into Yonkers, it is important that all boats rise and that everyone share in the prosperity as our city thrives,” he said.
More than $50 million is being spent to renovate the 411-unit housing complex, which is more than 50 years old. The complex’s eight buildings will get new bathrooms, kitchens and windows, as well as brighter hallways, upgraded elevators and security systems.
The renovations are being completed at 20 properties across the city and will improve the lives of 10,000 residents, including senior citizens. A complex financing plan under the Department Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration Program allowed the city and the authority to leverage its properties and use tax credits to attract private investors.
It is the most extensive public housing renovation in the nation using public/private financing.