Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ramapo affordable-housing project faces scrutiny on claim that investors bought most units 

A Rockland County housing agency representing the federal government is reviewing Ramapo's affordable-housing project on Elm Street, based on a complaint that investors bought up most of 24 units already sold, for potential rental properties.

Bruce Levine, a former legislator and Spring Valley village attorney, also sent his complaint to the state Comptroller's Office and Attorney General's Office. 

Levine asked for an investigation into what he called "abuses and illegalities" by Ramapo and its quasi-economic development agency, the Ramapo Local Development Corp.

The corporate ownership and condominium rentals could jeopardize $1.44 million from the state and $200,000 from the federal government aimed at lowering the cost of the units, which were priced at $349,000 for the first 48 units.

The complaint states that County Clerk's Office records show 17 of approximately 24 condominiums already sold have been purchased by limited liability companies, a business entity that's not a corporation.

Only seven units sold so far by the Ramapo Local Development Corp. are owned by people, the complaint says. Five of those individuals gave Brooklyn addresses, one signed was by an LLC owner in Ramapo, and one gave a Monsey address.

"Of these units, 17 were sold to LLCs (sometimes multiple units to one LLC) even though the rules of the development are that the units be owner-occupied by eligible (means tested) families," Levine wrote in his complaint.

"There is also evidence that some of the investor-owned units are in fact being rented out," Levine wrote. "In addition to the affordable financing and affordable housing issues, there are also gifts of public funds issues that arise from these actions."

Levine's complaint spurred a review by the Rockland Office for Community Development on behalf of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


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