NYC Pension to invest $60 million to preserve affordable housing

(Bloomberg) — New York’s $86 billion civil employee pension fund is investing in a not-for-profit partnership that took over loans for properties linked to rent-controlled, rent-stabilized apartment buildings from failed Signature Bank.

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The New York City Employees Retirement System, or NYCERS, will invest up to $60 million in a partnership, led by the Community Preservation Corp., that will preserve nearly 35,000 rent-stabilized units affected by the sudden collapse of Signature Banks last March, City Controller Brad Lander said Tuesday. The fund will hold a 25% stake in the partnership, which also includes Linked Fund Management and Neighborhood Restore HDFC.

Protecting and expanding our affordable housing supply through sound investment decisions is a top priority of my office, Lander, who is the investment adviser to the city’s pension funds, said in a press release. The comptroller estimated that the internal rate of return on investment was almost 11% net of fees.

Most of the apartments under deal are in Manhattan and the Bronx, 13,000 and 10,000, respectively, with the balance in Brooklyn and Queens, according to Landers’ office.

Signature Bank was one of a handful of regional banks that collapsed in 2023. Its failure sparked anxiety among tenants and elected officials in New York City about how it would affect the bank’s loan portfolio of rent-stabilized buildings.

We need to make sure that those who are union workers and working class people have an opportunity to stay in the city they helped build, Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference announcing the investment. This is one area we can all agree on. New Yorkers need to be housed, and they need to be housed in an affordable way.

New York bank regulators placed Signature Bank into receivership last March after they lost confidence in management and depositors fled. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. created venture to offload $33 billion in commercial property loans held by Signature. In December, the FDIC sold a 5% equity interest in two ventures supporting rent-stabilized and rent-controlled loans to the CPC-led partnership. The $5.8 billion portfolio contains approximately 35,000 units, 80% of which are rent-regulated and represent approximately 3% of the city’s rent-regulated housing stock. CPC will service loans held by enterprises.

Rafael Cestero, CPC’s chief executive officer, said the nonprofit will work with building owners to restructure or refinance their debt when it comes due and assess needed renovations. He estimated it could take 10 years to process loans based on 35,000 units.

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The investment of the pension funds is an incentive for a program overseen by Landers’ office that aims to generate risk-adjusted market-rate returns through investments in affordable housing and economic development. The city’s five separate pension funds for civil servants, police officers, teachers, firefighters and non-teaching school employees have not met the goal of investing 2% of assets in the so-called Economically Targeted Investment Program.

Less than 1% of pensions’ $272 billion in assets is currently invested in affordable housing and workforce financing.

Landers’ office has previously said that the pension portion of ETI’s investments has not increased because most are longer-duration, fixed-income assets that lost value when mortgage rates began to rise in 2022. During Over four decades, the city’s Civilian Employees Retirement has invested almost $700 million in rental apartments. All five pensions have invested $4.5 billion in the ETI program.

Read more: NYC’s $264 billion pensions fail to invest more in affordable housing

NYCERS’ investment comes amid the city’s worst housing crisis in more than 50 years.

A city survey in February found that the rental vacancy rate fell to 1.4%, the lowest since 1968, from 4.5% in 2021. Rentable apartments for New Yorkers with higher incomes low were even fewer. The share of units available for rent for less than $1,100 was just 0.4%.

— With assistance from Natalie Wong.

(Updates with more detail in paragraphs 3 and 8, adds quote from Chairman Eric Adams in paragraph 6.)

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