In early 2009, at the urging of President Barack Obama, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with a view toward easing the blow dealt to the economy by what some are calling the Great Recession. The ARRA had a tall order to fill: create new jobs while saving existing ones, cultivate economic activity in both the short- and long-term—and in the words of the official Recovery.gov website, do it all with “unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending.”
The act sought to accomplish this short-but-mighty list by providing some $787 billion in funding for everything from tax cuts to federal contracts, grants, and loans. New York State received $250 million dollars from the Fed (via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s Tax Credit Assistance Program [TCAP]), and of that, New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) received a chunk of $85 million to be put toward creating low income housing and the creation and preservation of jobs.
Since TCAP funds not spent by February 2012 will be recaptured by HUD, New York City officials had to act fast to make use of the money. And act they did; so far, almost 20 stimulus-funded affordable housing projects are already underway in New York City. These projects include both new construction and the rehabilitation of existing buildings.
“New York City is the first city in the nation to put stimulus for housing projects to use, and that means real jobs and affordable housing for New Yorkers,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in a statement after the allotment was announced. “Thanks to New York City’s congressional delegation, the city received tens of millions of dollars to revive stalled affordable housing projects, and we’re putting it to use to provide affordable housing for more than 700 families.” Bloomberg went on to say that the stimulus money and associated construction would create more than 2,800 jobs for construction workers, architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers, and others in the residential housing industry—a field that has been hit especially hard by the recession.
The infusion of stimulus money wasn't a moment too soon, according to New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) Commissioner Deborah VanAmerongen, who says the economic crisis has made it difficult for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program to reach its potential. “Governor [David] Paterson was the first governor in the nation to propose that funding [for] affordable housing development and preservation be included in the economic recovery package,” she said. “TCAP will get stalled projects up and running and create quality affordable housing and stronger neighborhoods throughout New York City and the entire state,” VanAmerongen said.