New York City is losing affordable housing in neighborhoods that have the greatest opportunities for residents, according to a new study from the NYU Furman Center.
The study found that the distribution of subsidized rental units across the city’s neighborhoods changed significantly between 2002 and 2011, not just from new development but also because of different opt-out rates across neighborhoods.
Properties that opted out of all affordability restrictions between 2002 and 2011 were located in higher-amenity—and higher-cost—neighborhoods than properties that were preserved during that time, according to Housing, Neighborhoods, and Opportunity: The Location of New York City’s Subsidized Affordable Housing.
On average, the neighborhoods that lost affordable units commanded asking rents about $400 more per month than rents in neighborhoods where affordable housing was preserved. And, compared with the typical neighborhoods where affordable units were preserved, neighborhoods with units that converted to market rate had better performing public schools, lower poverty rates, lower violent crime rates, and better access to transit and jobs.
According to the Furman Center, the programs that have produced the most subsidized, affordable rental units fall into four categories: Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) financing and insurance programs, HUD project-based rental assistance, New York City and New York state Mitchell-Lama programs, and low-income housing tax credits.
Nearly one-quarter of the 235,000 units of privately owned, subsidized rental housing that has been developed in New York City through the four program categories since the 1960s have been converted to market rate, says the report.
Over the next decade, more than 58,000 units of subsidized rental housing will be eligible to opt out of affordability restrictions. Many of these are concentrated in high-cost neighborhoods close to the core business areas of Manhattan.
The study also found that between 2002 and 2011 the city’s new affordable units were constructed in neighborhoods that on average had a poverty rate over 30 percent, a violent crime rate in the top fifth of neighborhoods, and a local public elementary school where just 40 percent of students performed at grade level in English language arts.
Since 2000, just 6 percent of new subsidized affordable rental units have been located in Manhattan below 96th Street, compared with 17 percent of subsidized rental units built in the 1970s.
“As the city carries out its plan to build 80,000 affordable units and preserve 120,000 affordable units in the next decade, it is important to consider the geography of these investments,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, faculty director of the NYU Furman Center. “The question of how much the city should pay for creating or preserving affordable units in high-opportunity neighborhoods is a judgment call—but at the very least policymakers should be armed with the facts about neighborhood conditions so they can be strategic in making decisions.”