NYREJ Publishes Article by Thomas Kearns on Affordable Housing Solutions

Firm News

New York Real Estate Journal recently published an article written by Olshan Real Estate partner Thomas Kearns entitled “Affordable Housing Ideas Across USA.”  The article is a reflection on Mr. Kearns’ attendance of a recent American College of Real Estate Lawyers seminar where senior real estate lawyers gathered to explore “the reasons for evictions and the creative ideas being pursued across the country to alleviate homelessness.” “Among the issues discussed,” he writes, “was the surprisingly high number of working people who are evicted because of defaults on student loans.” He elaborates, “Since lenders are entitled to garnish wages after a default, the tenant’s ability to pay rent is destroyed. While homestead exemptions are available in bankruptcy to homeowners, tenants are not entitled to an exemption for rent paid on their residence.” One solution to promote affordable housing involves a Los Angeles project wherein temporary shelters such as trailers are provided for people currently living in tents. In another instance, “a lawyer representing a large single family home developer helped his client impose a modest private transfer fee payable on each house sale to a fund which collects the fees and contributes to organizations developing affordable housing–the fund had contributed millions over the years.” Mr. Kearns offers two ideas to help develop affordable housing in New York: “1) The real estate industry should consider working with the banking industry and New York’s legislature to balance the equities more in favor of workers so that rental expenses can be protected from wage garnishments;” and “2) Charitably-minded New York cooperatives, condominiums and HOA’s should consider imposing a modest transfer fee payable to neighborhood organizations working to combat homelessness.” “My own view,” he concludes, “is that housing is a basic human right and each of us needs to take whatever steps, whether big or small, to contribute to solutions.”

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