Torres-Springer on Affordable Housing, Federal Funding and More

Maria Torres-Springer (Photo via The FilAm)

Maria Torres-Springer, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) since January, warned journalists on June 12 about the “very strong headwinds” coming from Washington D.C. that will reduce federal support for housing. In remarks at a Newsmakers briefing held by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Torres-Springer spoke about the impact, reports Cristina DC Pastor in The FilAm:

“The president is proposing that there are severe cuts to [the housing] budget,” she said. “What that means is their support of programs in different parts of the country is really threatened.”

The good news, she added, is that New York City is not alone.

“We are working very very closely with our counterparts in different parts of the country,” she said. “There are red states and purple states working with us because those parts of the country too rely on affordable housing programs in order to meet the needs of their residents.”

Torres-Springer said her office is on track to make 200,000 affordable housing units available over a period of 10 years. Jynn Schubert in Gotham Gazette writes about one particular aspect of the multi-year plan.

Torres-Springer’s appearance came just after the city released a new plan for Brownsville, Brooklyn that aims to not only add 2,500 units of affordable housing, but address deep-rooted community issues in one of the poorest, resource-starved neighborhoods in the city. The plan, she said, was developed with community input via in-person planning meetings and an online option provided by HPD over the last year.

“We know at HPD that the crisis that we are facing in terms of affordability is much more than just building housing,” Torres-Springer said. Through its housing plan, which includes the potential rezoning of around a dozen neighborhoods, the de Blasio administration is seeking to add affordable housing, overall housing density, and community staples such as parkland and school seats.

Torres-Springer came to the HUD job after holding other positions. Pastor of The FilAm noted the official’s comments about her latest assignment.

Torres-Springer said she has handled different roles – small businesses, economic development — under the De Blasio administration but being housing commissioner feels a little bit like a “homecoming.”

She grew up in Section 8 housing in California. “Our family for as long as I can remember really relied on Section 8 rental assistance voucher in order to make ends meet,” she said during the forum attended by members of the ethnic and community media.

“I remember the feeling of each annual inspection by the Alameda County Housing Authority. It was an important inspection and if it didn’t go well, there was always that possibility we would lose that voucher. I remember that feeling I had in my stomach the night before an inspection, and it’s a feeling I carry with me every day in my work.”

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