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History of DHCR and Past Commissioners

In 1926, the Division of Housing was created within New York's Department of State. It was originally an arm of the State Board of Housing that administered a Limited Dividend Program, the first of its kind in the nation. Under this program, private developers were granted special incentives to build affordable housing. From that beginning, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal has evolved into a housing agency, a community development agency and a regulatory agency all rolled into one. The following is a brief history of that evolution.

Housing

In 1939, New York State began America's first state-subsidized public housing program. That same year, the Division of Housing became an independent agency that administered both the Public Housing Program and the Limited Dividend program.

New York State's declaration that state-aided public housing projects would bar discrimination based on "race, color, creed or religion" was also a first. At that time, no other state prohibited discrimination in public housing.

In 1955, the State Legislature enacted the Mitchell-Lama Law. This law authorized New York State or its municipalities to provide low-interest mortgage loans to developers of housing for people with incomes too high for traditional forms of public housing but too low for private housing.

New York State continued to be an innovator in middle income housing with the creation of the New York State Housing Finance Agency (HFA) in 1960. The HFA sold bonds to private investors and used the proceeds to provide builders with low interest loans. The results were impressive: From the start of the program through the mid-1970's, 269 state-aided Mitchell-Lama projects were built. These projects brought nearly 105,000 additional apartments to the state. Co-op City in the Bronx, the nation's largest cooperative housing venture, contained 15,378 apartments.

As part of an overall strategy to provide safe and affordable housing for the residents of New York State, DHCR also created an Anti-Drug Program in 1989 and currently administers the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. This program provides low-income families with vouchers and certificates to help them to pay the rent.

Community Development

In 1960 the words "Community Renewal" were added to the Division's name. This marked the first stage of the Agency's evolution. That year, the State began providing direct grants and technical help to communities participating in federally-aided urban renewal programs.

By the 1970's, non-profit community groups began to spring up at the grass-roots level throughout the state. In 1977, the Legislature created the Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP) to assist some of these groups with their administrative and planning expenses. In 1980, it created the Rural Preservation Program (RPP) for groups serving rural areas.

In 1985, DHCR assumed responsibility for the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), which awards grants and loans to private, nonprofit and government housing sponsors to construct and rehabilitate low-income housing.

The following year, the development of low-income housing received a further boost from Congress through the creation of the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. The tax incentives attracted considerable investment capital for use throughout New York State and fueled the building and rehabilitation of thousands of low-income housing units.

Since Congress passed the National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, DHCR has also been involved in the HOME Program. This program funds the production of rental housing, help for tenants looking to rent, housing rehabilitation for homeowners and loans to first-time home buyers.

Rent Regulation

Rent regulation marked the next stage in the Agency's evolution into the comprehensive housing agency that it is today. Rent regulation began in 1943 as a wartime federal initiative, but it wasn't until 1950 that New York State first assumed responsibility for administering rent controls through the Temporary State Housing Rent Commission. In 1962, New York City began administering its own program. In 1964, DHCR was given the responsibility of administering rent control in municipalities outside the City.

In 1969, New York City expanded the current rent stabilization laws through the enactment of the Rent Stabilization Law of 1969. This new law placed approximately 400,000 previously exempt apartments under a new system of rent regulation.

In 1971, the State passed several laws designed to gradually deregulate the rent-controlled and rent-stabilized housing stock. In response to tenant concerns about this deregulation, the State passed the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 (ETPA) which provided for a stabilization system in Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties in municipalities choosing to adopt the regulations. DHCR was directed to implement ETPA in these counties.

ETPA also amended the New York City Rent Stabilization Law, thereby re-regulating many decontrolled apartments and placing additional buildings under stabilization for the first time. Despite this, it was not until 1983 that the State gave DHCR the responsibility for administering New York City's rent control and rent stabilization programs. This took affect in 1984 and doubled DHCR's size. To put this in perspective, it should be noted that New York City has approximately 960,000 units that are regulated. There are slightly over 1 million regulated units throughout the entire state.

Conclusion

DHCR continues to evolve. Commissioner VanAmerongen, upon her appointment in February of 2007, initiated a policy of "collaboration, coordination and creativity," encouraging strategic relationships with public and private partners so that limited resources can be used more effectively. She and her deputies also worked to make the agency more responsive to the needs of both tenants and landlords, and to take a proactive approach on regulatory matters.

These and other recent changes constitute a new vision of government and the role of DHCR. Starting with Edward Weinfeld, who served the Agency from 1939 through 1943, each of the Agency's commissioners have helped DHCR evolve into what it is today. The following is a list of those commissioners, with their years of service:

Edward Weinfeld1939-1943
Herman T. Stichman1944-1954
Joseph P. McMurray1955-1959
James Wm. Gaynor1959-1969
Charles J. Urstadt1969-1973
Lee Goodwin1973-1976
John G. Heimann1976-1977
Victor Marrero1978-1979
Richard A. Berman1981-1982
Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich1983-1985
William B. Eimicke1985-1988
Richard L. Higgins1988-1990
Angelo Aponte1990-1993
Donald M. Halperin1993-1994
Joseph H. Holland1995-1996
Joseph B. Lynch1999-2001
Judith A. Calogero2002-2006
Deborah VanAmerongen2007-2010
Brian E. Lawlor2010-2011
Darryl C. Towns2011-

Last Updated on 4/14/11