New York State Comptroller DiNapoli issued a critical audit of a loan program of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. HPD disagreed with many of the audits key findings. For the purposes of this blog post, however, I am more interested in the Article 8A loan program itself. The program derives its name from its enabling statute, Article 8A of the New York State Private Housing Finance Law.
According to the audit, the program is intended
to improve living conditions and to preserve safe and affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households. The Program attempts to achieve this goal by providing low interest rate loans, of up to $35,000 per unit, to owners of rent-regulated, multiple dwelling buildings in New York City (City). The loans are to be used to correct substandard or unsanitary conditions, to replace and rehabilitate building systems (i.e., heating, plumbing, and electrical work), or for other necessary improvements. (4)
To become eligible for this program, building owners “applying for Article 8-A loans must submit an application demonstrating that the physical condition of the property in question, and the owner’s property-related finances, warrant Program funding; and the applicant was unable to obtain a loan from at least two traditional lenders.” (5)
This is an interesting program design because it makes low-cost City funds available to owners who are already required to provide affordable housing pursuant to applicable rent regulation statutes. Given that many other owners of rent regulated buildings are able to operate their buildings without subsidized loans, one wonders why the relatively small number of buildings in this program should receive special treatment.
Legitimate policy rationales could include (i) preventing rent-regulated units from being left vacant due to their poor condition or (ii) preventing units from exiting rent regulation because they are eligible for the “substantial rehabilitation” exception to further rent restrictions. But better than assuming that a particular subsidized loan was made consistent with a legitimate policy rationale, would be for the City to make a specific finding of what it was getting in return for this subsidy. If subsidized loans were just going to (i) owners who had made bad choices in the past that led them to be rejected by private lenders or (ii) to owners in the “know” about this program, that would be a poor use of public funds.