Misguided affordable housing bill likely to make market worse

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A Mitchell-Lama “housing reform” bill passed by the Legislature now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature; he should veto it instead.

The bill, say sponsors state Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-B’klyn, Manhattan) and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), will introduce “reforms around voting procedures” and “corporate governance” in Mitchell-Lama cooperative housing.

More government-mandated rules, bureaucracy and misguided interference in the housing market, in other words.

Kavanagh aims to “ensure open, transparent governance,” protect “shareholder residents and the public” and preserve “affordable housing in Mitchell-Lama buildings that have been subsidized for decades.” 

One problem: These developments were never meant to be permanently subsidized units, kept off the market and provided with tax breaks, low-interest loans and guaranteed profits (at taxpayer expense) till the end of time, while some owners don’t even want to remain in the program. Pols have no right to change the rules now, decades after the fact.

When the Mitchell-Lama program was created in 1955 for low- and middle-income families, it was designed so residents and shareholders could voluntarily leave — usually after 20 years — and return the units to the market. Yet the legislation would raise the threshold for that, requiring approval from 80 percent of units, rather than the current 67 percent.

That’s purportedly meant to benefit residents, but what makes the bill’s sponsors think they know what’s best for residents? Why not let residents decide for themselves?

“It’s so typical of politicians. They don’t know the ins and outs, they don’t know how [the system and buildings] work,” one Mitchell-Lama resident told The Post. “They don’t realize how they’re hurting us because they think they’re being helpful.”

The bill would also require the board to hold six public meetings a year and replace proxy voting with an absentee-ballot system. But as the resident said, “there’s no democracy here,” and the bill’s proposed rules only add more hurdles for residents.

“I do believe in affordable housing,” she added. “But Mitchell-Lama is not an answer to those problems. The system has too many loopholes that protect corruption” — i.e., rich people gaming the system or paying bribes for better apartments.

Fact is, the numerous “affordable housing” programs created by pols who thought they knew better are precisely what’s responsible for the city’s housing shortages and sky-high costs over the years.

That crunch eased somewhat as residents fled in response to the pandemic, the crime surge and never-ending tax hikes. So now, if anything, it’s time to roll back these misguided programs, not expand them — and make matters even worse.

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