Thursday, October 27

Affordable Housing Continues To Be A Scarce Commodity

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While the cost of renting in Manhattan continues to rise, renters looking for cheaper rents and more space move to the outer boroughs, a plight not new to New York. According to the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development, although housing development continues to increase it does not keep pace with the growing population and increase in household size, which means that the availability of low-cost and affordable housing is steadily shrinking. 
Crown Heights is a neighborhood situated in central Brooklyn with a history of wealth, poverty, racial tension and ethnic diversity.  Improvements in safety have brought about growing business and the attention of new residents along with a whole new set of issues. Like other New York neighborhoods that were once home to immigrant communities and large populations of low-income residents (think Williamsburg), old time residents now face higher rents, higher property taxes and more difficulties holding on to their homes. 
“It’s sad to see the neighborhood get whited out” Vanessa Falor, a screen writer and two year resident of Crown Heights said.
It’s not just the loss of cultural diversity that’s alarming it’s that when low income
 residents are forced out of their existing homes the options for new places of residency are slim. According to most the recent Housing and Vacancy survey released by The New York City Housing and Neighborhood Information System, between 2002 and 2008 New York lost nearly 200,000 units of affordable apartments.
 Affordable housing is defined by the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development as 30% or less of a household’s total income; data from the 2008 Housing Vacancy Survey shows that half of New York households pay more than 30% of their income and almost one third of households spend half of their entire income on rent. 37.3% of Crown Heights residents receive some form of income support.
The government response to the ongoing need for affordable housing is “The New Housing Marketplace,”  Mayor Bloomberg’s 10 year and $8.5 billion initiative to “create and preserve” 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014. In order to accomplish the initiative the city has invited both public (federal funded and government agencies) along with private investors and developers to participate. For their participation in the city’s affordable housing plan private developers and investors receive a tax deduction, and the benefits of rezoning in exchange for constructing buildings that contain at least 20% affordable units.
According to the Pratt Center that looked at Bloomberg’s initiative 2008 deadline for construction, of 271 residential sites where construction was initiated and should’ve totaled in more than 7,800 units of new housing as of 2010  2,219 units were completed and the remaining 148 sites were still vacant,. 
Those critical of Bloomberg’s plan say that while many sites of construction have been financed few have been completed with the majority of success being waterfront real-estate in Williamsburg. Critics say the combination of luxury & affordable housing is not serving the right communities or creating enough new housing for the ones its displacing and even if the initiative is successful in creating 165,000 new units of housing affordable housing will still be a scarce commodity.

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