WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Slammed with swelling rents and a lack of new affordable housing, uptown residents demanded answers on why reasonably priced residences are so hard to come by and called the city's initiatives a mere "drop in the bucket" at a forum this week.
Residents, activists, elected officials and preservation officials voiced concerns about an affordable housing crisis above 155th Street at Community Board 12's Housing Task Force meeting Thursday. They cited problems with rent control reforms, landlords, hard-to-navigate red tape, alleged discrimination against minorities and problems accessing Section 8.
Department of Housing Preservation and Development officials — including assistant commissioner Bill Carbine and spokesman Eric Bederman — stressed that with little land available in upper Manhattan, the department uses different tactics to foster affordable housing. Those include city programs meant to protect and promote rent stabilization, and loans and tax breaks to landlords who keep affordable units or charge elderly and disabled tenants stabilized rents rather than market rates.
The big problem, Bederman said, boils down to simple economics. Upper Manhattan is priced well below market, so its attractiveness to lower and middle income New Yorkers has made it increasingly unlivable.
"The irony is that it does push rents higher," he said.
Jeanie Dubnau, of the Riverside Edgecombe Neighbors Association, slammed the department's efforts.
"WIth all due respect to the people from HPD, I have to say, you have not addressed the problem," she said. "The fact is, rent regulated housing is not affordable."
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez joined in the criticism of the agency, saying that he and CB12 have long asked the Bloomberg administration — which in 2004 promised money for 165,000 new affordable housing units — whether funds were still available, noting that only 138 such units had been built in CB12 since the mayor's affordable housing plan was enacted.
"Our issue right now isn't [about] having land," he said.