Nearly 900 affordable housing program apartments sit vacant

NY_Post.pngBy Michael Gartland

The city has left nearly 900 apartments vacant in one of its affordable-housing programs — a situation that Mayor de Blasio said on Thursday leaves him “perplexed.”

Of the 2,322 apartments in the Tenant Interim Lease program, 38 percent — or 884 — are unoccupied, according to a report by Public Advocate Letitia James.

Some tenants sent packing for renovations are still waiting to get back a decade or more later.

“I am perplexed,” de Blasio said of the astonishing time frame.

“We’ve gotta break through that and get these things finished and get people in a better circumstance in those buildings.”

James said the city’s failure to get the job done amid the housing shortage is “shocking.”

“As our city faces a crisis in affordable housing, it is shocking that a city-run program is allowing hundreds of affordable units to remain vacant,” she said in a statement.

The Post reported last week that the Department of Investigation is probing the program over allegations that squatters are living rent-free in exchange for bribes and that tenant-association accounts have been looted.

The public advocate’s report came out hours before an overflow crowd packed a City Council oversight hearing on the program, which is overseen by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“It’s one of the most intolerable outcomes,” said City Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) of so many vacancies amid a housing and homeless crisis.

“Hundreds of homes are ­vacant now. Some have been ­vacant for 10 years or more, and that’s 10 years of housing that we’ve just deprived New York families.”

The city created the TIL program in 1978 to keep dilapidated buildings occupied so they could be maintained as affordable housing. Tenants agreed to manage the buildings in exchange for a promise they could later buy their units for as little as $250.

Over the years, hundreds of TIL tenants were moved out for renovations that were supposed to take a couple of years. At least 130 households are still waiting to return — some for as long as 12 years.

City officials blamed the 2008 housing crisis and resulting budget cuts for the lengthy delays.

“We all acknowledge here that the renovations of the properties have taken too long,” testified Kim Darga, HPD’s associate commissioner for preservation.

To speed the process of returning the units, the city is attempting to move buildings from the TIL program into a new initiative that relies on outside developers and private equity to make renovations.

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