Saturday, April 16, 2016

Habitat-NYC Affiliate's Role Incentivizing Sleazy Brooklyn Real Estate Operator To Force Low-Income Tenants Out Of Aging Buildings, & Used $21 Million Federal Grant To Pull It Off

In Brooklyn, New York, ProPublica reports (a story co-published with the New York Daily News):
  • In 2010, the New York City Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity received a $21 million federal grant to work on a city neighborhood hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis and help stabilize it.

    The funds would allow Habitat-NYC to launch the most ambitious project in its 32-year history. Its neighborhood pick was Bedford-Stuyvesant, a historically poor neighborhood in central Brooklyn, where the charity would focus on buying and renovating abandoned apartment buildings.

    There was just one problem. With few vacancies in the gentrifying area, longtime tenants were pushed out of their apartments — some into homelessness — clearing the way for developers to sell to Habitat at a hefty profit, a ProPublica investigation has found.

    Ultimately, Habitat’s project came with a cost: While scores of families gained new homes, other even needier ones were displaced.

    Though Habitat promoted the properties it acquired to renovate as “long-vacant,” four of nine were still occupied shortly before the charity moved to buy them, records show. In two cases, Habitat targeted buildings just days after the last families living there moved out.

    The deals, and what local Habitat executives said about how they were being accomplished, left some inside the charity so upset that at least two employees emailed anonymous complaints to the nonprofit’s international headquarters in Georgia.

    “Habitat-NYC’s Director [of] Real Estate and Construction speaks openly about making deals with developers, saying that we can not buy buildings from them until they get rid of all their tenants,” one of the employees wrote in a May 2012 email, which was provided to ProPublica. “We are spending federal money to throw low-income New Yorkers out of buildings.”
For more, see How Habitat for Humanity Went to Brooklyn and Poor Families Lost Their Homes (The charity paid millions in federal stimulus funds to developers shortly after longtime tenants were pushed out. “We are spending federal money to throw low-income New Yorkers out of buildings,” wrote a Habitat whistleblower).

For a story follow-up, see Council Member Pushes Habitat for Humanity to Restore Homes to Displaced Families (ProPublica showed last week how the charity had used federal funds to acquire vacant buildings, but some had been occupied just days before the charity moved to acquire them).

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