NEW YORK, NY - AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT) Chairman John J. Sweeney joined with city and state labor leaders, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu and other public officials to announce that the HIT has invested $640 million of union pension capital over the last 10 years to create or preserve more than 24,000 housing or healthcare units in New York's five boroughs.
The most recent investment was $134 million for rehabilitation of the historic Penn South Cooperative in Manhattan, where today's event was held. The project will preserve affordability at the union-developed community, refurbish the complex and create more than 600 union construction jobs.
Mr. Sweeney said the HIT's New York City Community Investment Initiative, which was part of the rebuilding from the 9/11 terrorist attack, exemplifies the American labor movement's long tradition of working to advance the well-being of New York's working families through the creation of affordable housing and family-supporting jobs. Under the initiative, more than 95 percent of the units created have been affordable to low -and moderate-income residents and more than 2,800 union construction jobs have been created at a time when job creation is critical to reviving the national economy.
"The labor movement, through the work of the HIT and others, is striving to get America's economy moving again, and put people back to work," Mr. Sweeney said.
Moreover, Comptroller Liu applauded the critical role that union pension capital is playing in creating jobs and expanding the supply of affordable housing in New York.
"While many economic factors remain out of our control, such as gridlock in Washington or the ongoing European debt crisis, the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust program represents what we can do to help put our economy on the right track," Comptroller Liu said.
Joining Comptroller Liu and Mr. Sweeney at the event were HIT CEO Stephen Coyle; Morris Benjamin, President, Penn South Cooperative; and other labor and community leaders and coop residents.
Mr. Sweeney noted that President John F. Kennedy had issued a challenge to the labor movement nearly 50 years ago at Penn South's dedication in 1962. The President, he said, called upon labor unions to "provide a better life for the people who come after us" through housing projects like Penn South. Just two years after the President spoke those words, the AFL-CIO laid the groundwork for creating the HIT, which would help fulfill that mission. Over the next four and a half decades, the HIT has invested more than $6 billion of union and public employee pension capital ($10.8 billion in today's dollars) to build or preserve over 100,000 units of housing nationwide.
As the event's keynote speaker, Comptroller Liu commended labor unions for their long history of support for New York City housing, including the development of union-sponsored housing such as Penn South. "We look forward to our continued partnership and preserving the vision that President Kennedy and organized labor outlined nearly five decades ago," Comptroller Liu said.
Mr. Sweeney, who had attended the dedication where President Kennedy spoke, said the HIT's $134 million investment in Penn South – the largest in the HIT's history – will preserve the coop's affordability for another 20 years. "Penn South is a model that shows us how working families can live affordably in high-cost cities," he said. "These homes will continue to be affordable, thanks to union and public employee pension capital invested in the HIT."
The HIT investment will also finance rehabilitation work at the aging Penn South complex. The work will be performed entirely by contractors using union workers, and is expected to generate over 600 jobs for members of the New York City building and construction trades unions.
"The jobs created by this project will mean a lot to our members and their families, especially since construction unemployment has been so high here in New York City," said Gary LaBarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. LaBarbera added, "We are proud to play a role in preserving an important piece of the city's labor history and keeping working families and retirees in their homes."
Unions have been closely tied to Penn South since it was first developed in 1962 by the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, now part of UNITE HERE. It has been home to many union members, including, at one time, A. Philip Randolph, the prominent labor leader and civil rights activist.
With 2,820 units in 10 buildings, Penn South is one of the largest developments to come out of a 1950s movement to create limited-equity cooperative housing for moderate-income people in New York. The movement was spearheaded by the United Housing Foundation, a union-created housing development entity. Today, Penn South's residents include many active and retired union members. Its property management staff is represented by OPEIU Local 153, while the janitors and porters belong to SEIU Local 32BJ. The development is located at 333 West 23rd Street in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, several blocks south of Penn Station.
The investment in Penn South is also part of the HIT's nationwide Construction Jobs Initiative, which has created nearly 12,000 union construction jobs around the country since 2009 by investing more than $1 billion of pension capital in 36 projects representing $2 billion of development and more than 13,000 housing units.
The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust is a fixed-income investment company registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It manages over $4 billion in assets for approximately 350 investors, which include union and public employee pension plans. The HIT invests primarily in government and agency insured and guaranteed multifamily mortgage-backed securities. The HIT is one of the earliest and most successful practitioners of socially responsible, economically targeted investing, with a 45-year track record that demonstrates the added value derived from union-friendly investments. The investment objective of the HIT is to provide competitive returns for its investors and to promote the collateral objectives of constructing affordable housing and generating employment for union members in the construction trades and related industries. Since its inception, the HIT has invested over $6 billion to finance more than 100,000 units of housing nationwide, generating more than 69,000 union jobs.