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East Harlem's Affordable Housing 'Under Threat,' Report Warns

By Dartunorro Clark | August 12, 2016 3:08pm | Updated on August 14, 2016 12:49pm
 East Harlem's 423 East 117th St. (left) Central Harlem's 2468 Seventh Ave. (center) and Hamilton Heights' 1772 Amsterdam Ave. Each building has affordable units available through the city's Housing Connect website.
East Harlem's 423 East 117th St. (left) Central Harlem's 2468 Seventh Ave. (center) and Hamilton Heights' 1772 Amsterdam Ave. Each building has affordable units available through the city's Housing Connect website.
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DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

HARLEM — East Harlem’s affordable housing stock could shrink by 25 percent over the next 40 years, a new report warns.

The Regional Plan Association, a Manhattan public policy think tank, said the city is “experiencing a crisis of affordability” and East Harlem could bear much of the brunt.

The report found the affordable housing in the neighborhood is “under threat.”

It specifically hammers at the city’s affordability agreements with developers, which typically have expiration dates.  

The city recently inked a $135 million deal with developers to renovate and preserve more than 500 apartments in Harlem, for instance, but the affordability deal struck with them would last just 40 years.

The think tank, which collaborated with Manhattan Community Board 11, said those types of deals must have additional protections to help low-income residents.

“Over the next 30 years, East Harlem could lose between 200 and 500 units of affordable housing each year if existing programs are not extended or made permanent,” the report said.

About a quarter of the 56,000 residential units in East Harlem have affordability restrictions due to expire by 2040, according to the report.

The report also estimated that the more than 4,000 units subject to affordability restrictions will expire between 2020 and 2030 and will “require active engagement between property owners and government agencies in order to maintain regulated rents.”

The affordability restrictions includes programs such as rent-stabilized units, rent assistance programs and affordability agreements with developers, the report said.

The agency is calling for more “aggressive protections for existing vulnerable residents will be critical in order to prevent displacement,” according to the report.  

Housing advocates have also identified this as one of the weaknesses of the city’s affordable housing program.

Earlier this month, DNAinfo New York reported on advocates calling on the city to revise those agreements at several affordable housing developments.

The report also calls on Mayor Bill de Blasio to revise his affordable housing rezoning plan as “housing costs are rising much faster than incomes” in the neighborhood due to gentrification, the report said.

The median income, for instance, rose by 35 percent in the neighborhood from 2000 to 2013, the report said.

“Such goals will not be easy to meet, but with government and community cooperation, they are not unrealistic,” the report said.

But the city touted the work of its Tenant Support Unit, which has worked to prevent landlord harassment and illegal evictions, including calling thousands of residents and investigating hundreds of cases, officials said.

“We are serious about protecting every affordable apartment in East Harlem,” said Juliet Pierre-Antoine, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“In just two years, we’ve preserved more than 2,300 affordable apartments in the neighborhood and we’ve provided free legal representation to tenants fighting harassment and eviction in buildings with more than 400 apartments.”

Officials also said in East Harlem specifically, the city is working on pre-development plans for a 390-unit new affordable development which is expected to trigger Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and make it subject to permanent affordability.

“We have absolutely no intention of slowing down,” Pierre-Antoine said.