Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) announced last week that the group had purchased a total of 62 units in two buildings, one located on Parsons Boulevard and the other on Sanford Avenue, both just blocks from the heart of Downtown Flushing.
“We are still committed to developing affordable housing, but preserving existing housing is critical as well,” said Christopher Kui, executive director of AAFE.
According to Kui, the cost of developing one unit of affordable housing on average is about $300,000, while preserving existing units costs much less, typically between $125,000 and $150,000.
Kui said that AAFE has undertaken similar projects in Chinatown, but that this is their first foray into the multi-family market in Flushing, although they have purchased several one- to four-family homes in the area, rehabilitated them, and then sold them at rates below market.
“We are still fighting for affordable housing in projects like Willets Point, but we are also preserving affordable housing,” added Margaret Chin, deputy director of AAFE. “Now, 60 families will be able to stay in the community.”
Kui also said it is important to focus on neighborhoods like Flushing, which currently have a large quantity of affordable housing stock, before it is too late. He pointed to a trend that is taking shape across the city, where large equity firms buy up entire buildings, and then try to force out long-term tenants so they can raise the rents and turn a bigger profit.
Rents in the two buildings typically run from $450 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,100 for a three-bedroom apartment, according to Kui. When apartments become vacant, AAFE will use a lottery system to fill them, aiming their efforts at individuals who make less than 80 percent of the area median income, or about $50,000 annually for a family of four.
Assemblywoman Ellen Young allocated $125,000 to the purchase of the two buildings, funds AAFE said will be used to install energy-efficient windows, upgrade the boiler system, and make roof repairs.
“These two buildings are providing real, tangible solutions to the affordable housing crisis,” said Young. By saving buildings from rent hikes and luxury development, we are giving our low-income tenants and working families a place to call home.”
Last year, portions of Flushing were also named as 421-a exclusion zones, which means that developers that take advantage of lucrative tax breaks will be forced to include a certain percentage of affordable units in new housing construction.
Pictured from left to right are John Choe, chief of staff for Councilman John Liu, Margaret Chin, deputy director of AAFE, Assemblywoman Ellen Young, and Christopher Kui, executive director of AAFE.