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MWBEs play vital role in affordable housing

Last weekend, the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators (NYSABPRL) highlighted the various contributions of Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) to New York’s economy at its 48th Annual Legislative Conference.

Events like these are a reminder of how far our State has come in creating equitable opportunities for MWBE businesses, and how much those businesses have contributed in building and preserving New York’s affordable housing stock in communities across the State.

New York’s MWBE program, which is currently set to expire at the end of this year, directs State agencies to set MWBE goals in their contracting opportunities. It is vital that this law, known as Article-15A, be extended.

There are a number of proposals that could make this program even stronger. One is the elimination or adjustment of the net worth cap of MWBEs, which currently stands at $3.5 million.

Making this change would allow qualified business owners to continue growing and not be penalized or limited by their own success.

Another reform that should be enacted is cross-certification between New York City and New York State, which currently require different approval processes for companies interested in becoming licensed as MWBEs. One unified process should be sufficient for becoming licensed at the City or State level.

Additionally, the process must be streamlined and expedited. Given the backlogs and staffing issues that exist, applicants can wait anywhere from three months to two years for certification. Let’s make this process easier and faster and match these companies more quickly with the many opportunities that exist in New York’s booming affordable housing industry.

Our industry is committed to helping New York City realize its goal of awarding 30 percent of all City contracts to MWBEs by 2021, as well as helping New York State reach its own goal of 30 percent contract utilization for MWBEs. Programs such as the M/WBE Build Up Program, designed to further stimulate MWBE participation, are great ways for business owners to continue to receive the support they need.

NYSAFAH can help connect interested MWBEs with developers, architects and contractors working on private sites. In fact, MWBEs in the construction industry should continue to look to the affordable housing industry for opportunities.

With the City and State both committing historic funds to the development and preservation of hundreds of thousands of affordable homes over the next decade, there will be no shortage of new developments and projects in need of support.

Many firms have already taken advantage of these opportunities. For example, the City awarded contracts to various MWBE developers to build 100 percent affordable housing—with all of the units reserved for homeless, seniors or extremely low-income New Yorkers—across three boroughs back in 2017.

This is just one example of the incredible work being done by MWBEs to help ameliorate our housing crisis through public and private efforts and public-private partnerships.

In addition to ground-up development, MWBEs work with developers, contractors and the rest of our industry on nearly every affordable development under construction in the five boroughs. This helps ensure that more job sites and workers actually reflect the diversity of the communities in which these projects are built, which is another step in the right direction.

JAMES SANDERS

These issues, and many others, were on display last weekend at the NYSABPRL Conference. We applaud Assembly MWBE Subcommittee Chair Rodneyse Bichotte and Senate MWBE Task Force Chair James Sanders for facilitating productive conversations on the ways we can further strengthen the rules and regulations governing MWBE contracting, as well as detailing best practices for securing funding from City and State agencies.

It is critical that we continue these discussions in the months and years to come.

The affordable housing industry understands the challenges facing New York as it works to address the housing crisis, but we also understand that this represents a real opportunity for MWBEs to play an even bigger role in delivering the affordable homes that New Yorkers need and deserve.

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