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The latest Hudson Yards furor questions use of EB-5 visa program

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In the latest furor over Hudson Yards, there are questions about whether developers are gaming a visa program intended to bring investment to low-income neighborhoods.

The EB-5 visa program allows investors who spend more than $500,000 or more to acquire permanent U.S. resident status. However, that investment is tied to a commitment to help some of the country's rural or less affluent urban areas. Critics have already found plenty of objections to the $25 billion construction of luxury condos, rentals, and commercial space, and The New York Times suggests this is yet "another reason to hate Hudson Yards."

The Wall Street Journal reported four years ago how the visa-for-cash program was being used to fund luxury apartment buildings rather than spur jobs in less affluent areas as it was intended. Outrage at how developers are taking advantage of the system is nothing new.

Two years ago, The Washington Post reported how Jared Kushner’s sister was touting the program, sometimes nicknamed the "Golden Visa" program to grant special privileges to investors. 

Real estate attorneys have told Brick Underground that since the housing crash a decade ago, EB-5 has been a popular way for developers to meet funding gaps. That’s in spite of efforts by Congress to do away with the system. That never happened, in part because of the determined lobbying efforts of both the Hudson Yards developers, and New York’s senator, Chuck Schumer, according to The Wall Street Journal and The Real Deal.

As with many rezoned areas, Hudson Yards is required to provide a percentage of affordable housing as part of their residential portfolio. However, a plan that’s been in the works for a decade to build an affordable housing development nearby has been scrapped, according to The City.

AM New York is reporting that NYC public advocate Jumaane Williams has slammed Hudson Yards for being slow to build promised affordable housing and for providing no indication of how the development is helping poorer communities. A Hudson Yards spokesperson insists the project has created jobs for residents all over the city, including Harlem, the area it is tied with to get financing.