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New York state making it easier to turn vacant hotels into affordable housing

New York makes it easier to convert former hotels into affordable housing
New York makes it easier to convert former hotels into affordable housing 02:08

NEW YORK -- As many city hotels bounce back from the pandemic, some remain boarded up and left behind.

So, why not turn those properties into affordable residential housing? As CBS2's Dave Carlin reported Wednesday, the state just made that easier.

"These deals can happen much quicker," said David Gillcrist, executive director of Project FIND.

Gillcrist's organization helps seniors with housing and other services. He applauds the law Gov. Kathy Hochul signed Tuesday to ease the process of turning empty hotel rooms to be into affordable units.

"However it is currently configured, it can be made acceptable for ... to turn it into a form of supportive housing," Gillcrist said.

"We're going to make the rules more flexible, make it easier to convert underused properties into residential space, meaning someone's home," Hochul said.

It unlocks $200 million in state funding to help make hotel to housing hotel to housing conversions possible, Carlin reported.

"For hotels that aren't going to open there's this amazing opportunity to transform them into housing for some of our most vulnerable residents who are in desperate need of affordable housing," said Jovana Rizzo, VP of communications for Fairstead.

Fairstead is a real estate company behind Park 79, a former hotel reimagined as residential housing on West 79th Street near Columbus Avenue. Lottery applications are now being accepted for the 77 units. The seniors in the running must have annual incomes of less than $53,000.

"We think it's an amazing opportunity for seniors to age in place and age in dignity," Rizzo said.

Hotels that are surviving, and paying good wages would not be targeted for conversion, said Rick Maroko, president of the Hotel Trades Council.

He said this applies to troubled properties.

"They're a blight on their communities and they attract illicit and illegal activity," Maroko said. "Those are the hotels that should be converted into supportive and affordable housing, while simultaneously protecting the good jobs that are provided by the legitimate hotel industry."

Hochul said this plan is just the beginning, as part of an overall $25 billion, five-year housing plan.

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