New York City faces a critical shortage of all types of housing, especially homes affordable to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. Real estate speculation, funding cuts to federal housing programs that assist the most vulnerable households, and the challenge of supplying enough housing to meet demand has resulted in many New Yorkers questioning whether they can afford the neighborhoods they
Today, more than half of all renters are rent burdened, with one-third severely rent burdened—which means they often have little money left for immediate expenses such as health care and food, let alone to make longer-term financial investments. The housing crisis is largely the result of rents rising faster than wages and a housing stock that has not kept up with our needs, which has contributed to the widening gap between housing demand and adequate supply. The ongoing housing crisis has contributed to a significant rise in homelessness, with approximately 60,000 New Yorkers sleeping in shelters today.
A thriving neighborhood, however, requires more than just safe, affordable housing. Access to parks, community services such as libraries and community centers, and diverse cultural amenities are all components of a healthy and meaningful life. Here, too there are disparities between different communities across the city. Many low-income communities of color continue to experience the effects of decades of underinvestment in quality community places.
Community safety is a key to creating thriving neighborhoods. While New York City is safer than it has been in decades and low crime rates and a shrinking jail population show that we can live safely with fewer people incarcerated, disparities remain in neighborhood safety.
Through placed-based planning that takes community perspectives and citywide needs into account, we can implement strategies across the city that are highly responsive to specific neighborhood needs. We must ensure our city leverages the strength and potential of our neighborhoods if it is to grow fairly.
Since the launch of the Housing New York plan in 2014, New York City has accelerated the creation and preservation of affordable housing to levels not seen in 30 years. It has financed over 122,000 affordable housing units, which alone could house the population of Pittsburgh. In 2017, we committed to accelerating and expanding the pace of Housing New York to create or preserve 300,000 affordable apartments by 2026 — 100,000 more than initially planned. Nearly 40 percent of these units are reserved for very low-income or extremely low-income households, also surpassing initial projections.
The City also passed the most aggressive Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy in the nation, requiring developers whose properties are rezoned to allow additional capacity to dedicate a portion of the new housing to be permanently affordable. To date, rezoning actions sufficient to create approximately 5,800 permanently affordable units have been approved through individual project approvals, with thousands more units made possible through rezonings as part of neighborhood plans. Zoning for quality and affordability removed many regulatory barriers (e.g., parking requirements, impractical height limits) that significantly constrained the creation of affordable and senior housing projects. A reformed 421a program requires affordable housing in rental properties using the exemption, and eliminates tax breaks for luxury condos. Taken together, the City is in a position to reach a sustained goal of 25,000 affordable units preserved or constructed per year — a rate it has never before achieved.
To address homelessness, the City has undertaken a major commitment to housing services for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. In 2016, we restructured the way homeless services are delivered, creating a streamlined management structure under the Department of Social Services. Today, low-income New Yorkers facing an immediate housing crisis have a single point of contact, Homebase, wherein all their housing needs can be met, including support services and short-term and ongoing financial assistance. Homebase programs craft individualized service plans with core services to help individuals remain in stable housing. Since 2014, the Homebase program has been expanded from 14 to 26 locations, and now provides coordinated preventive, aftercare, and community support services, including benefits advocacy, budgeting, employment, short-term financial assistance, and assistance with housing relocation. For the last few years, the number of people in City shelters has remained flat for the first time in a decade — and evictions dropped by 37 percent citywide between 2013 and 2018, enabling more than 100,000 New Yorkers to stay in their homes. Other efforts to protect tenants include launching the Tenant Anti-Harassment Unit and introducing universal access to legal representation for low-income tenants facing evictions in Housing Court.
The City also launched groundbreaking efforts to improve neighborhood parks through the Community Parks Initiative and Parks Without Borders, working with communities to invest in public spaces in dense and growing neighborhoods that have not seen major investment in decades. In addition to improving parks within the boroughs, the City released plans to complete the Manhattan greenway, a 33-mile loop that will run continuously around the edge of the island of Manhattan. The Manhattan greenway is nearly complete, and may be extended to the city’s other boroughs.
More funding enabled libraries citywide to offer six-day service and extend branch hours, while capital investments increased access to millions of books, resources, and programs. Customized plans for the commercial revitalization of thoroughfares, through the Neighborhood 360 program, strengthen the small businesses and streets that anchor our neighborhoods. In 2017, the City released CreateNYC, New York City’s first-ever comprehensive cultural plan, which outlines a path to diversify and increase access to arts and culture programming throughout the city, thereby reinforcing a cornerstone of our city’s identity. Building on feedback from nearly 200,000 New Yorkers, CreateNYC is a blueprint to strengthen the city’s cultural sector, targeting investments to address historically underserved communities across all five boroughs.
To promote safety in all communities, in 2014 the City launched the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP), a comprehensive approach to reduce violent crime at 15 public housing developments that accounted for 20% of violent crime in the City’s public housing. These neighborhoods also suffered from neglected parks, poor access to healthy food, and struggling commercial corridors.
What we heard from New Yorkers
Housing was the most frequently cited challenge facing New York City in our citywide survey, with 63 percent of more than 14,000 respondents selecting the issue, while 29 percent selected public safety. Their calls to action highlight these themes:
- Increase investment in diverse types of housing for key populations, with a focus on low- and middle-income households, single-person households, New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, and New York City Housing Authority residents.
- Promote homeownership through new programs targeted to affordable options.
- Expand rent stabilization and vacancy taxes.
- Add more space for youth recreation and to make the city greener and cleaner.
- Enact law enforcement reform and improve public safety through community patrols.
One respondent shared, “More attention should be paid to ‘low-income’ housing.” Another suggested, “Hiring more law enforcement that look like the racial and ethnic makeup of New York City,” and enhancing neighborhood patrol programs to deter drug use by “strengthening relationships between officers and the communities they serve.’’
WHAT WE WILL DO
OneNYC 2050 offers big solutions to big challenges, including plans to create and preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing, and generate 100,000 good-paying jobs. This requires supporting continued mixed-income housing creation in transit-accessible areas and supporting transit-oriented growth across the region. The City will pursue these ambitious goals through plans that are formulated at the neighborhood scale, with an emphasis on affordability and livability.
OneNYC 2050 details plans to create a network of quality open spaces that connect our playgrounds, parks, plazas, and beaches to homes and workplaces with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. We will activate hidden open spaces, including the waterfront, vacant sliver lots, and areas under elevated trains and highways. We will target cultural investments to low-income neighborhoods that have rich cultural assets but little institutional support. All neighborhoods will have access to healthy food as the network of green markets is expanded, making it more affordable for low-income families to shop at them. Equally importantly, the City will provide tools that enable communities to meaningfully participate in the planning of their neighborhoods.