Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 16, 2015

Location, Location, Location of NYC Affordable Housing

By David Reiss

NYU’s Furman Center has released a white paper, Housing, Neighborhoods, and Opportunity: The Location of New York City’s Subsidized Affordable Housing. The report opens,

Rent burdens for low- and moderate-income renters continue to grow in New York City, inviting calls for more affordable housing. While the primary goal in developing affordable housing should arguably be to provide safe housing at a reasonable cost so that households have more residual income available for food, medicine, transportation, and other essential goods, housing programs also take people to particular neighborhoods. New York City neighborhoods provide widely varying access to services and opportunity. Thus, city policymakers need to pay attention not only to the number or quality of subsidized, affordable units produced, but also to the characteristics of the neighborhoods where those units are built. (1)

In order to provide some data about that, the paper examines where 235,000 units of subsidized rental housing are in New York City. Unsurprisingly, many of the units are in neighborhoods like Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn where land costs were historically low.The paper studies important characteristics of neighborhoods where the subsidized housing stock is located: isolation from the rest of the City; student performance; public amenities like parks; public safety; poverty; and housing cost. It also looks at how these characteristics have changed in the 2000s.

One key finding from the report that will be of interest to those who think about how New York City is changing over time: tens of thousands of properties have opted out of affordability restrictions, particularly in more expensive neighborhoods like Manhattan below 96th Street, and it looks like tens of thousands more will opt out over the next decade.

As the Mayor’s team develops its affordable housing strategy of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing, this report presents some sobering data on the affordable housing challenges that the City faces. My takeaway is that the City should be doing more to encourage housing construction more generally to increase the overall supply, in addition to subsidizing affordable housing directly. Subsidies will never create enough units on their own to house all of the people who call and want to call NYC “home.”
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