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Rising rents burden New York’s low-income residents

New York City has one of the highest rent prices in the United States, which makes it difficult for those with lower incomes to find affordable housing. Though the Mayor Bill de Blasio administration has been working toward creating and preserving affordable housing, according to a recent study done by nonprofit group Citizens Budget Commission, the number of severely rent-burdened New Yorkers has increased slightly or remained steady, despite the efforts that have been made to help.

According to a recently released New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, 44 percent of New York households are rent-burdened, which means that these households pay more than 30 percent of income toward rent, which is accounted for after rental housing vouchers and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are applied.

Over half of these households are severely rent-burdened, meaning 50 percent of their income may go to rent. Severe rent burdens are most common among single-person households. Seniors and single parents are also severely rent-burdened. Many of these people earn less than 50 percent of the Area Median Income.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration have promised to create or preserve 300,000 affordable units by 2026, with 25 percent reserved for the lowest-income New Yorkers. This is part of his larger Housing New York 2.0 agenda.

In addition, the mayor has increased city funding for the New York City Housing Authority to combat the deterioration of affordable units in public housing. However, the number of low-income New Yorkers who pay more than half their income to rent is about 368,000 households, which is substantially more than the number of affordable units the city administration aims to make available. The mayor has also increased city funding for NYCHA.

Though the city is building and preserving more affordable housing than ever before, federal programs continue to be critical of supporting the poorest households.

The de Blasio administration is almost five years into its housing plan. The amount of housing units the state government plans to make available represents more than 8 percent of the city’s total
housing stock.

Though the de Blasio administration — as well as the Bloomberg administration that preceded it — prevented more households from becoming rent-burdened, the share of struggling tenants in New York has not been reduced.

Between 2014 and 2017, the share of rent-burdened households increased by 2 percent, and the amount of severely rent-burdened households remained the same. In the fiscal year 2018, the value of city capital dollars dedicated toward this cause exceeded $1 billion for the first time.

A report made by the Real Affordability for All coalition revealed that only 14 percent of the 77,650 affordable housing units that were created under the mayor’s plan have targeted families earning less than $25,000 a year, which many argue are the ones who need the most assistance.

Also, under a quarter of New York’s lowest-income residents live in the rent-stabilized apartments created through the city’s programs. Critics of the mayor argue that more apartments have to be made available at the lower-income tiers in order to
help people in those brackets.

The Citizens Budget Commission discovered in a recent report that over two-thirds of the poorest New Yorkers who spent less than 30 percent of their income on rent received one of the two federal subsidies available.

These subsidies include Section 8 vouchers, which bridges the difference between the price a landlord wants and what a tenant can afford to pay, and public housing, which is administered by
NYCHA.

In addition, because of years of underfunding and mismanagement, NYCHA’s public housing units are in substandard living condition, and the estimated cost of repairing them is nearly $32 billion, which is considerably larger than the state’s budget.

In recent years, even the more affordable neighborhoods in New York, such as Ridgewood, Crown Heights and Kingsbridge, have become too expensive for many to afford.

As a result, people have been moving to farther areas in New York such as New Rochelle, Yonkers, Tarrytown and Fleetwood, as well as to commutable towns and cities in New Jersey and Connecticut. Those who are looking for housing in New York City face the obstacle of high rents and few units of affordable housing.

October 22, 2018

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Estelle Saad


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