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Affordable Housing

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Affordable housing lotteries in New York are really a sign of just how woeful the housing situation is in that city for the poor, not to mention the middle class.

In a January press message, the developers of Pacific Park Brooklyn suggested “the demand for affordable housing in the borough is tremendous,” citing more than 84,000 applications for 181 units at 461 Dean and “roughly 95,000 applications” for 297 apartments at 535 Carlton. These are among the first four residential buildings in the 15-tower project, which will contain 2,250 below-market units among 6,430 apartments in Prospect Heights.

But such catch-all statistics—regularly used in depicting the hunt for below-market units—camouflage how low-income applicants face crushing odds compared to middle-income ones.

Exactly 92,743 households (not quite 95,000) entered the lottery for the “100 percent affordable” 535 Carlton tower, city data show. But only 2,203, according to City Limits’ analysis, were eligible for 148 middle-income apartments, such as one-bedrooms renting for $2,680 monthly and two-bedrooms at $3,223, affordable to those earning six figures. (The massive Excel spreadsheets, with names redacted, were obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.)

Also, 4,609 entrants vied for 44 units in the building’s other middle-income “band,” which includes one-bedrooms at $2,170 and two-bedrooms at $2,611, with rents set at approximately 30 percent of household income.

For less costly apartments, the competition was fierce. For the 15 moderate-income units, including seven one-bedrooms at $1,320, some 18,680 households applied.

More starkly, nearly 67,000 households, some 72 percent of the applicant pool, aimed at the 90 low-income units, including one-bedrooms at $589 and $929, for singles earning $21,566 to $25,400 and $33,223 to $38,100, respectively.

A good number of them were ineligible because their incomes either were too low or they fell between the two low-income “bands.” Also, 15 low-income units will ultimately be distributed outside the lottery, designated for homeless households under a new city policy.

While New York may be the worst city when it comes to affordable housing (or second, outside of San Francisco) it’s a growing problem throughout the urban core of our nation. The problem is that the new building is too unregulated, in that it allows developers to set the market, where the profit is all on the high end. What we actually need is a new round of public housing building, except that this time, the government needs to actually fund the housing instead of assuming it will generate the expenses needed to keep it up, which was the main problem with the notorious mid-twentieth century public housing projects that gave the whole concept a bad name when they fixed with white flight to make these buildings a living hell for residents. It’s good that there is some requirement for affordable housing, but it flat out isn’t enough and it never will be until the government mandates it.

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