April 22, 2023

UNHP & BIP Data Plays Role to Preserve Bronx Buildings Mortgaged by Signature Bank


Bronx News 12 covered the call of Bronx Congressman Ritchie Torres, the NY Housing Conference, and UNHP to the FDIC to provide oversight on the sale of the mortgages for the multifamily buildings in the Signature Bank portfolio. View the Clip here.

Over the last three months, UNHP’s Building Indicator Project, an important tool of the UNHP Multifamily Research and Action Center, and our long history of keeping lending institutions responsive to community needs have been an essential part of the conversation around the fate of Signature Bank’s multifamily housing portfolio and, more to the point, the fate of the families and individuals that reside in these properties. UNHP participated in a press conference on April 3rd with Congressman Ritchie Torres and the NY Housing Conference. The event received press coverage from various outlets and can be found on our press page.

“University Neighborhood Housing Program supports Congressman Torres’s efforts to make sure that the more than 470 buildings in the Bronx with Signature mortgages and the more than 19,500 families that live in those buildings are taken into consideration as the FDIC takes its next steps,” said Jim Buckley, Executive Director, University Neighborhood Housing Program. “It is essential that the FDIC work with local housing officials and community organizations to ensure that the mortgages are dealt with responsibly and that the buildings are maintained in good condition.” The latest NY Housing Conference newsletter highlighted the role of our data in the FDIC Congressional hearings and can be found in full here.

Signature collapsed earlier this year after its customers rushed to pull deposits. The bank held over $35 billion in real estate loans at the end of 2022, which accounted for nearly half of its total loans at the time, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) data.

University Neighborhood Housing Program’s (UNHP) Building Indicator Project (BIP) has been monitoring the Signature multifamily portfolio for years to protect vulnerable renters from deteriorating building conditions and displacement, which are too often the consequences of financial and physical distress in rental housing. Their data set shows high-risk trends and is used by regulators and financial institutions. UNHP found that Signature’s multifamily housing portfolio has 3,000 buildings containing over 80,000 apartments – almost 80 percent of which are rent-stabilized. 3.86% of the portfolio is likely distressed, and over the last five years, housing code violations increased by 113%. Who ends up with these loans is incredibly important to maintaining stability for New York renters. Read the entire NYHC 3/30 statement about Signature here. 

On April 3rd, US Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was joined by Jim Buckley of UNHP and The New York Housing Conference’s Rachel Fee, Brendan Cheney, and Shakti Robbins-Cubas to call on the FDIC to work with local housing officials and organizations to ensure the long-term preservation of the Signature Bank portfolio. The FDIC issued a press release later in the day announcing the sale of the Signature portfolio and committed “to reach out to state and local government agencies, as well as community–based organizations, to inform them of the FDIC’s efforts and to seek their input as the FDIC develops its marketing and disposition strategy.” Read the FDIC Press Release here.

Since the press conference, The FDIC has remained responsive and committed to working with State and City Housing agencies as well as community organizations who are working with tenant associations in Signature buildings. The UNHP BIP database has been around for more than a decade, and our 40-year timeline shows the improvement and growth in the use of the database and our commitment to fight for reinvestment by banks in the Bronx. One of the qualities of UNHP is our perseverance, as demonstrated by this post on our 30th-anniversary convening of multifamily lenders in 2013 and another post almost ten years later about our most recent Multifamily Lenders meeting and the rise in debt and property distress. Over the previous decade, rising debt levels have, according to our research, played a part in the adverse outcomes that we have been discussing in our Multifamily Lender BIP meetings for so many years. Now that the market seems to be changing and new problems — distress & disinvestment, and tenants finding it ever harder to make rent — are arising, the question becomes: how can lenders participate in being part of the solution to new issues and those that have stemmed from that previous decade of speculation? While UNHP does not have all the answers, we are proud to be part of the conversation and will continue to persevere in the fight for the Bronx, decent, affordable housing, and responsible lending. Read more about our research and BIP presentations here.