One Fourth of East Harlem Housing Set to Lose Affordability

The area could lose up to 500 units of affordable housing every year for the next 30 years if the city doesn't extend existing protections.

2 minute read

August 9, 2016, 10:00 AM PDT

By Elana Eden


New York Apartments

Ryan DeBerardinis / Shutterstock

By 2040, affordability restrictions will expire for more than a fourth of all residential units in East Harlem, according to a new study by Regional Plan Association.

"A loss of regulated affordable housing of this magnitude would increase economic pressure on low and moderate-income residents," ultimately forcing many to leave, author Pierina Ana Sanchez warns in the abstract.

To prevent that outcome, the report proposes "requiring affordable housing created to guarantee affordability in perpetuity":

This can be done by restructuring existing programs, or supporting community and public ownership models including community land trusts, land lease agreements and expanded public housing … As urban areas become more attractive and new residents move in, there should be more efforts to shore up long-term residents’ ability to remain a part of the community.

It also locates opportunity in the Housing New York program, which will rezone the city to encourage residential development and to require inclusionary housing. Especially in gentrifying neighborhoods, those changes could create "a lab for the encouragement of inclusive and sustainable development."

The preservation of affordable housing is especially important to East Harlem and areas like it that have "historically welcomed people excluded by [overtly] discriminatory policies from living elsewhere," Sanchez notes:

Their displacement ultimately would be damaging for the city and for the entire region, which relies on having residents of diverse backgrounds, income levels and experiences to fill the range of jobs needed to make our economy function. And it would harm residents who would face leaving a community that is well connected to jobs, health care and education.

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