OneNYC 2050 : Volume 4 of 9 : Thriving Neighborhoods

Ensure all New Yorkers have access to safe, secure, and affordable housing

Every New Yorker deserves a safe and affordable place to live. The City’s diverse housing options accommodate people from every imaginable background. That diversity drives economic growth, as employers locate here to take advantage of the city’s vast talent pool. Maintaining and expanding these opportunities depends on addressing the housing crisis. Simply put, at a time when economic mobility is far too limited around the country, the opportunities in New York City can help people get ahead — but only if they have adequate housing they can afford.

Housing affordability remains an enormous challenge for many residents, particularly low-income New Yorkers. Lack of affordable housing can force residents to make stark choices, such as putting up with substandard housing conditions that negatively impact their health and well-being. Low-income families might be forced to make difficult trade-offs between food, heating, and other basic needs. Some might be forced to leave the City altogether, while others may become homeless. The long history of housing discrimination that limited access to housing and economic opportunity all too often means the communities hit hardest by today’s crisis are those that have suffered in the past. And increasingly, our housing challenges are intertwined with those of the surrounding region, because the region overall is providing too few affordable housing options. 

Keep New Yorkers in Their Homes and Protect The Housing Stock

The City’s housing stock includes nearly 1 million rent-regulated housing units, 175,000 public housing apartments, and many market-rate units that house millions of low- and middle-income New Yorkers. It is crucial that current and future tenants in New York City have access to stable and secure housing.

  • Protect tenants from displacement
    The City is continuing efforts to protect tenants from harassment, unsafe living conditions, and displacement by unscrupulous landlords. In 2019, the City launched a new Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants that will lead the City’s anti-harassment and outreach initiatives across multiple agencies, utilize data to focus efforts, and coordinate with advocates. We are also expanding efforts to protect tenants through the Tenant Anti-Harassment Unit housed at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the launch of data-driven tools such as the Speculation Watch List and Certification of No Harassment program. Another program, Partners in Preservation, is rolling out in East Harlem, Inwood, and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx to work with community-based organizations to jointly coordinate anti-displacement initiatives — such as code enforcement, tenant organizing and education, legal representation, affirmative litigation, and other strategies.
  • Provide tenant legal aid to all New Yorkers by 2022
    For decades, tenants who found themselves facing eviction often lacked legal representation and were therefore at a severe disadvantage. New York City is the first city in the nation to commit to providing every tenant facing eviction in housing court or NYCHA termination of tenancy proceedings with free legal services — a plan which at full implementation is expected to provide services to 400,000 individuals annually. The City is funding and implementing its Universal Access to Counsel initiative in phases and, since 2014, City-funded legal services for tenants have provided assistance to a quarter-million New Yorkers facing the threat of eviction and displacement.
  • Seek reform to State rent regulation legislation
    The rent-stabilized housing stock is an irreplaceable source of low-cost housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. Median household income for rent-stabilized units is 33 percent lower than that of private, renter-occupied units. Under the current system, the City is at risk of losing lower-cost rent-regulated units, which are critical to our ability to meet the housing needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. The City’s guiding principles for reforming the rent regulation system are:
  1. Retaining rent stabilized stock
  2. Preserving affordability and stabilizing rent levels
  3. Ensuring current tenants are secure in their homes and neighborhoods
  4. Protecting benefits of rent stabilization for future tenants
  5. Maintaining the quality of the stock
  • Implement NYCHA 2.0 to support the success of the largest public housing authority
    In late 2018, the City announced NYCHA 2.0, a comprehensive plan to preserve public housing. This plan will ensure residents have the safe, decent, and affordable homes they deserve by making critical fixes, improving operations, and creating new funding sources. The Fix to Preserve program addresses health and safety issues including heating, mold, pests, and lead. It will also improve services and maintenance through organizational changes and improved service-delivery models. To create new funding sources, PACT to Preserve will use Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 funding, including Rental Assistance Demonstration, to fund renovations and convert 62,000 apartments to permanently affordable housing. Build to Preserve will address roughly $2 billion in capital repairs through new development on NYCHA land. Transfer to Preserve will deliver approximately $1 billion in capital repairs through the sale of unused development rights, also known as air rights.
  • Help low-income homeowners stay in their homes
    Many low-income homeowners are not able to afford home repairs, especially families struggling to make mortgage payments. These repairs are essential to maintaining the health and safety of a home. The City recently launched HomeFix to help low- and moderate-income homeowners in one-, two-, three-, or four-family properties fund home repairs, while also leveraging the services of community and nonprofit partners. It is estimated that HomeFix will serve approximately 100 households per year over the next eight years. The City will explore expansion based on initial program results.

Promoting Innovation in Housing

New York City will explore innovative housing construction methods to increase the supply of affordable housing throughout the city.

With rising land and construction costs, the City must find ways to get more from every dollar invested in affordable housing, and deliver that housing faster to families in need. New York City is developing a number of strategies to advance innovative housing construction methods, some of which are ready to move from their experimental phase to broader application.

The City is currently piloting Modular NYC to evaluate whether modular construction can significantly reduce development time and cost. Through Modular NYC, the City is building 80 units of mixed-use modular affordable housing in Far Rockaway, Queens, with Radiant Development LLC. The City also plans to partner with Thorobird Companies and Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services to develop 167 units of modular affordable housing in East New York.

ShareNYC is an initiative that explores shared facility housing. The  city launched a Request for Expressions of Interest seeking proposals for the design, construction, and management of shared housing on private sites throughout the city. Shared housing, defined as any unit with two or more independently occupied rooms that share a kitchen or bathroom, can meet housing needs, promote income diversity, and leverage construction-cost savings.

Launched by the City in 2018, Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC is a design competition in partnership with the AIA NY to unlock the potential of vacant lots by encouraging innovative proposals to build tiny homes and other infill housing on sites previously considered too small or irregular for development. The two-phase design competition will be evaluated by an esteemed jury and result in real projects being financed and developed on the City’s small lots.

The City passed legislation in 2019 to create a Basement Apartment Conversion Pilot Program . The pilot will create a pathway for transforming certain basement and cellar apartments into safe, legal, affordable homes. The new law establishes a three-year demonstration program to facilitate the creation and renovation of apartments in the basements and cellars of qualifying one- and two-family homes in Brooklyn Community District 5.

Recognizing that communities across the city benefit from investment in and proximity to the arts, the City is exploring how best to integrate housing with work space and community facility space that serve artists and arts organizations and benefit the surrounding communities. For example, new development on City-owned land in Brownsville will support the neighborhood’s goals of creating space where professional artists can nurture and showcase their work, using the arts to bring people together, celebrate history and pride in the neighborhood, and create pathways for economic opportunity

Photograph of modular housing units in Brooklyn.

Modular housing units in Brooklyn. Source: HPD

Photograph of empty lot in NYC.

BIG IDEAS FOR SMALL LOTS. Source: HPD

Create Or Preserve 300,000 Affordable Units By 2026 And Increase Overall Housing Supply

To address the affordability crisis head on, in 2017 the City committed to accelerating and expanding the pace of Housing New York to achieve 300,000 affordable apartments by 2026. Through a range of strategies, including land use actions, new financing tools, partnerships with nonprofit organizations, and innovative new approaches, we will find more efficient ways to design and build affordable units and deliver them on time, and also make more land available for developing affordable and mixed-income housing.

  • Partner with community organizations to preserve affordability
    The City launched Neighborhood Pillars, a $275 million public-private fund to help nonprofit organizations acquire, and preserve affordability in, existing unregulated and rent-stabilized buildings. The program is expected to fund acquisition of approximately 1,000 homes annually, many of which are at risk of speculation and rapid turnover, totaling 7,500 homes over the next eight years that will be locked into long-term affordability.
  • Preserve 15,000 affordable Mitchell-Lama housing units by 2026
    Nearly 20,000 co-ops and rentals created under the 1950s Mitchell-Lama program have left the program since 1989 due to market pressures. To protect the long-term affordability of the City’s remaining Mitchell-Lama developments, the City has preserved 34,000 of these homes, and is targeting the preservation of an additional 15,000 homes over the next eight years.
  • Develop underused sites for housing
    It is critically important to capitalize on opportunities for housing where ever large, appropriately located, underutilized parcels of land present an opportunity. Sites in all five boroughs include obsolete facilities; large, low-rise commercial sites; and even infrastructure that can support overbuilds, such as rail yards and tracks. For example, sites at Sunnyside Yard and Willets Point in Queens and the New Stapleton Waterfront in Staten Island can support a development program with a substantial housing component.
  • Continue the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites
    The City has over 8,500 properties designated by the City as subject to mandatory environmental study and management. The City assists community based-organizations to plan and redevelop vacant or underutilized land in their neighborhoods, through technical assistance and grants.  Since 2014, 756 lots covering 187 acres were cleaned up through brownfield programs, supporting the creation of more than 5,200 affordable and supportive housing units. The City is committed to continuing this work by cleaning up 850 additional lots by 2021.
More than half of New Yorkers are rent burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and more than a quarter are severely rent burdened, spending more than half their income on housing.

Rent burdened Households by Income Group (based on a family of four), 2017

Bar graph displaying Rent burdened Households by Income Group (based on a family of four), 2017

More than half of New Yorkers are rent burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and more than a quarter are severely rent burdened, spending more than half their income on housing. Rent burdened Households by Income Group (based on a family of four), 2017

Source: Census Bureau Housing and Vacancy Survey: 2017 Microdata; Income brackets from HUD

Sunnyside Yard

Sunnyside Yard is a 180-acre active public railyard in Western Queens. The City and Amtrak launched a master planning process to design a new vision for its future, created collaboratively by a diverse team of community leaders, technical experts, elected officials, and public agencies. A City feasibility study found that an overbuild development of Sunnyside Yard could bring thousands of new housing units, commercial space, schools, parks, and more to serve residents and surrounding communities.

Photograph of NYC skyline.

Source: NYCEDC

Expand Housing And Related Services To Support The City’s Most Vulnerable Populations

While a lack of affordable housing is a city-wide problem, some populations and communities are disproportionately impacted. Many low income communities of color have faced decades of housing discrimination, disinvestment and limited opportunities, making them particularly vulnerable to housing insecurity and homelessness. Seniors and people with disabilities often have specific housing requirements that can be a challenge to meet with limited budgets in a tight housing market. We are committed to expanding initiatives to aid and support residents who face critical housing needs.

  • Expand rental assistance programs to prevent homelessness
    Since 2014, the City has launched several new rental assistance programs. In 2018, the City streamlined all City-funded rental assistance programs into a single subsidy so at-risk New Yorkers could easily access them. As of March 2018, these programs have helped more than 109,000 New Yorkers move out of shelters or avoid homelessness. We will also reinstate rehousing programs to prevent homelessness and provide permanent housing options for already homeless families and adults.
  • Reimagine the shelter strategy
    The City’s primary goal is to keep families and individuals from losing their homes and ending up on the street or in shelter. When staying in a shelter is unavoidable, it is the city’s goals to provide shelter in a way that enables New Yorkers who are homeless to stabilize their lives and move back into their communities as soon as possible. Reimagining the shelter system included closing cluster apartments, closing commercial hotels and replacing them with approximately 90 new shelters to shrink the city-wide shelter footprint, improve the quality of services and keep people in their neighborhoods.
  • Serve 30,000 senior households by 2026
    We are doubling our efforts in senior housing to serve 30,000 households over the extended 12-year plan. To meet this additional commitment, the City has launched Seniors First, a three-pronged strategy to enable seniors to age in place, make more housing accessible to people with disabilities, build senior housing on underused public land, and target federal HUD 202 developments for preservation efforts. As part of that, HPD’s Senior Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) Program provides gap financing in the form of low-interest loans to support the construction and renovation of affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers aged 62 and up. To date, we have financed nearly 7,400 senior homes.
  • Create 75,000 affordable housing units for very low-income households by 2026
    As part of its plan to provide 300,000 units of affordable housing to New Yorkers by 2026, the City is committed to serving the poorest New Yorkers. These include 31,500 homes for extremely low income households making $28,170 or less per year for a family of three, and 43,500 homes for low income households making less than $46,950 per year for a family of three.
  • Create 15,000 new supportive housing units by 2030
    Supportive housing provides permanent housing combined with on-site services for clients with special needs. The City has committed to creating 15,000 supportive housing apartments by 2030, using a proven model that saves public dollars, and is a critical tool in meeting the City’s commitment to housing New Yorkers in need. Progress has been more difficult than initially expected and the City will redouble its efforts to meet this target.
Since 2013, the number of evictions in New York City has fallen by 37 percent. During this time, the City started guaranteeing universal legal assistance for low-income tenants facing eviction and strengthening other assistance programs.
Bar graph displaying Since 2013, the number of evictions in New York City has fallen by 37 percent. During this time, the City started guaranteeing universal legal assistance for low-income tenants facing eviction and strengthening other assistance programs.

Since 2013, the number of evictions in New York City has fallen by 37 percent. During this time, the City started guaranteeing universal legal assistance for low-income tenants facing eviction and strengthening other assistance programs.

Source: MOCJ, HRA

In 2016, 97 percent of families with children in shelters were people of color.
Pie chart displaying how in 2016, 97 percent of families with children in shelters were people of color.

In 2016, 97 percent of families with children in shelters were people of color.

Source: DHS

Analyze Residential Segregation and Promote Fair Housing

Many New Yorkers lack equal access to the opportunities our city has to offer due to both historic and present-day injustices based on race, ability or any other type of discrimination. Where We Live NYC is a collaborative, City-led process to promote fair housing, confront segregation, and take action to advance opportunity for all. It is inspired by HUD’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, which pushed cities to analyze fair housing issues more thoughtfully, and develop innovative goals and strategies to empower more residents to live in thriving neighborhoods. Through Where We Live NYC, New York City is working with community leaders, residents, and government partners to create the next chapter of fair housing policies. The City will publish a final report in fall 2019, which will include policy solutions and strategies to move us toward a more just and inclusive New York City.

Support Efforts To Create New Housing And Jobs Throughout The Region

New York City is part of a metropolitan area of 23 million people and 10 million jobs, almost half of which are in the city. Since World War II, the majority of new housing and job growth in the region occurred in suburban areas. But in the past decade, housing and job growth have been concentrated within the city, as more people and businesses gravitate to urban neighborhoods.

As the region continues to grow, New York City cannot address the need for housing and job centers alone. We will work with regional partners to ensure both city and suburbs are growing and thriving together. As part of OneNYC, the City launched a first-of-its-kind regional planning division to support collaboration with other municipalities, local governments, and local planning departments on shared planning challenges. To date, the City has met with more than 40 regional governments, and routinely works with the planning leadership group of the region’s largest municipalities, to create a region-wide vision of equitable growth.

New York City will deepen collaboration with governments across the region to address housing affordability. The City will engage in a region-wide effort to bring attention to and combat the regional housing affordability crisis, including providing data analysis to understand changing regional housing needs, and supplying technical assistance to regional affordability planning efforts.