Stringer wants housing built on vacant city lots

In Brownsville, one of the locations is 40,000 square feet of space unused since the 1970s.

In Brownsville, one of the locations is 40,000 square feet of space unused since the 1970s. (2/18/16)

NEW YORK - City Comptroller Scott Stringer proposed Thursday turning the city's vacant lots into affordable housing in a bid to relieve overcrowded shelters.

"We could take people from homeless shelters to permanent affordable housing," Stringer says.

In an audit released Thursday, Stringer's office found 1,131 city-owned, vacant lots across the five boroughs.

According to the report, 75 percent of those lots have been vacant for more than 30 years.

Brooklyn topped the list with 556 such properties.

In Brownsville, one of the locations is 40,000 square feet of space unused since the 1970s.

"That's because Brownsville is the community that has been left behind," says resident Yadud Burns. "We have been left behind in everything."

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which is responsible for most of the lots, says the comptroller's report is misleading.

HPD Commissioner Vicki Been says hundreds of the vacant lots are in flood zones. Hundreds more have already been chosen for planned development within the next two years.

"The assertion that HPD allows vacant city-owned properties to languish in the face of the affordable housing crisis is simply wrong," Been says.

But Stringer says the HPD is taking too long to react to that housing crisis.

His audit also included a proposal for a land bank, which would lease, rather than sell, the city's vacant lots. The plan would ensure the land goes to support affordable housing and nonprofit organizations to help create more than 50,000 new homes.

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