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IDA: No additional tax breaks for housing projects that discriminate

Lewis Warren, vice chairman of the Nassau IDA

Lewis Warren, vice chairman of the Nassau IDA board, which last week added fair housing requirements to a policy adopted in July. Credit: Howard Simmons

Developers and owners of apartment buildings in Nassau County must certify they are following antidiscrimination laws to receive additional tax breaks for increasing the number of affordable units, officials said.

The county’s Industrial Development Agency last week added fair housing requirements to a policy adopted in July. That policy is designed to encourage recipients of IDA aid to boost the number of apartments for low-income residents and workers in their buildings by offering more tax breaks.

The policy only applies to residential projects that already receive IDA aid. The project may have been built years ago, could be under construction now or have been approved for agency help but still be in the planning stages. The policy doesn’t specifically define what affordable rents are.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran lobbied the IDA for more than a year to find a way to increase the number of affordable units in agency-backed buildings.

In approving the policy three months ago, IDA board secretary Timothy Williams and others cited Newsday’s three-year Long Island Divided investigation of housing discrimination, saying they would add provisions to forbid unequal treatment in the renting of apartments.

The provisions are "appropriate to do in light of the Newsday series on housing discrimination, some of the hearings that have been held, and the legislation that has been adopted by the state Legislature," IDA chairman Richard Kessel said last week. "This makes sure that developers who come in for housing assistance understand that the IDA will not tolerate any kind of discrimination whatsoever."

Board vice chairman Lewis M. Warren agreed, adding, "For the projects that the Nassau County IDA supports, we want firm adherence to these fair housing policies."

The changes approved last week could expand antidiscrimination requirements to IDA projects not currently covered by them, according to officials.

The Nassau IDA usually supports projects in North Hempstead and Oyster Bay towns, and in Long Beach. Glen Cove and Hempstead Town have their own IDAs.

Affordable housing projects often face community opposition and some developers are reluctant to include large numbers of affordable units in projects because that can lower their profit.

Still, experts said apartments with modest rents are in demand because homeownership is out of reach for many on Long Island. The real estate information company ATTOM Data Solutions in California found it would take nearly two-thirds of the average local wage to buy a home in Nassau.

The Long Island Builders Institute, a trade group of housing developers, "strongly supports the new incentives provided by the Nassau County IDA for additional affordable housing to be included within development projects," the group's CEO Mitch Pally said on Monday. "We are hopeful this new incentive will encourage our local towns and villages to provide the density necessary to make new affordable housing units a reality."

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