By Al Barbarino
Mayor Bloomberg last week vetoed a bill passed by the City Council in July that calls for new wage and data reporting standards for affordable housing projects receiving city funding.
Under Intro. 730, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development would be required to report subsidies awarded to city-funded projects and wage data for every individual working for developers and contractors.
The stated aim of the bill is to increase transparency, but the Mayor stated in a veto message that the reporting requirements are illegal and would only undermine efforts to increase the city’s affordable housing stock.
“By imposing an unnecessary layer of red tape on developers of affordable housing in New York City, it would threaten the creation of much needed affordable housing for New Yorkers,” Bloomberg said in his message.
The reporting requirements set forth in the bill include website listings of any housing development projects assisted in whole or in part by city financial assistance, quarterly wage reports covering individuals employed by a developer or contractor, as well as a listing of “prequalified” and “disqualified” developers.
Bloomberg called the bill an “indirect effort to pressure contractors to hire union workers” because they are paid union-scale wages.
He argued that the bill places a burden on smaller, women and minority-owned businesses and contractors in the city that would be unable to afford the reporting requirements, landing them on the “disqualified” list and discouraging their participation.
The result: fewer affordable units being built, and the hiring of larger, non-local companies that source jobs outside of the city, he said.
Critics of the bill, including the HPD, are sticking behind the Mayor and his veto.
“We support transparency with a purpose, and believe that the public should know who is doing business with the City, what those requirements are, and how much is being spent,” said HPD commissioner Mathew Wambua in a statement. But, he added, “HPD already vigorously enforces all applicable wage laws. Collecting and stockpiling massive amounts of personal and sensitive wage information offers no clear benefit to the public… nor will it help in our ongoing efforts to identify people who may be skirting the law.”
“This bill will irrevocably harm the ability of small business, including emerging minority and women owned firms, to participate in the affordable housing field,” added the New York State Association for Affordable Housing in a statement. “The bill represents an undue burden on smaller businesses in the industry, and will ultimately divert limited resources (away) from affordable housing development.”
But many labor unions have stood behind the bill.
“No public agency should operate under a veil of secrecy, least of all an agency charged with spending over $7 billion of taxpayer dollars,” said Robert Bonanza, business manager of the Mason Tenders District Council in a statement after the bill’s passage. “We all want an affordable housing program that provides quality, safe housing for New Yorkers, at an affordable cost. However, as result of the way HPD has awarded contracts, millions of dollars have been misappropriated, workers have been exploited and residents have been left with shoddy, dangerous homes.”
*this article appeared in the Sept. 5, 2012 print edition of Real Estate Weekly