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NYC data shows deep disparities in affordable housing creation

The Gothamist, David Brand, Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky, March 9, 2024

Some of New York City’s wealthiest and most suburban neighborhoods are barely adding any new subsidized apartments at all for low- and middle-income residents, even as renters face the deepest affordable housing shortage in decades, a Gothamist review of city data shows.

The city has financed roughly 24,000 apartments with rents capped for low- and middle-income tenants since Mayor Eric Adams took office at the start of 2022. Most are located in densely populated parts of the city that are predominantly Black and Latino, like Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx. Just a fraction of those new units are located in lower-density, predominantly white council districts, including in eastern Queens and Staten Island, according to the analysis of publicly available data from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Gothamist identified 11 council districts — with a combined population of roughly 1.9 million people — that have added fewer than 30 city-financed units apiece since the start of Adams’ tenure.

City officials and housing experts attribute the dearth of new affordable housing in some parts of the city to a mix of policy decisions, high costs and zoning restrictions, as well as frequent opposition to developmentfrom councilmembers and community groups. Adams has vowed to add more income-restricted housing in every neighborhood, but so far the data shows that his efforts aren’t materializing.

The disparities persist despite record-high homelessness, rising rents and New Yorkers’ struggles to find affordable housing throughout the five boroughs. Limits on even modest new affordable development can lock out low-income renters and make it even harder for seniors, young adults and families to find apartments they can afford.

“It’s creating a situation that’s unequal across the city,” said Brendan Cheney, policy director at the New York Housing Conference, which tracks affordable development.

Citywide, 1 in 3 renters spend over half their income on housing and more than half pay at least 30% — a threshold the federal government defines as rent-burdened. Less than 1% of apartments priced below $2,400 a month were vacant and available to rent last year, according to HPD’s latest housing survey.

Cheney said the city data revealed trends that can help challenge opposition to affordable housing in districts with almost no new development.

“When you can see a pattern, then you have a stronger argument to say that that pattern needs to change,” Cheney said.

Read More: The Gothamist