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Loss of Affordable Housing Increases Health Issues in East Harlem: Study

By Dartunorro Clark | September 28, 2016 5:14pm
 There's a link between a lack of affordable housing and bad health outcomes among East Harlem residents, a study said.
There's a link between a lack of affordable housing and bad health outcomes among East Harlem residents, a study said.
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Dartunorro Clark/DNAInfo

HARLEM — The loss of affordable housing could have dire impacts on the health of East Harlem residents, a study warns.

The New York Academy of Medicine conducted its first-ever in-depth look at the neighborhood and cautioned that if more isn’t done to build permanent affordable housing, residents could face dangerous health outcomes.

“East Harlem has lost approximately 1,854 units of affordable housing since 2011 and is estimated to lose 6,817 units over the next 10 years,” the study said.

“A failure to develop more affordable housing will continue to lead to evictions, displacement, decreased housing affordability and potentially poor health outcomes.”

Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, the president of New York Academy of Medicine, said “health is more than health care” and improving housing is a crucial component to improving health outcomes.

“East Harlem residents are already burdened by a number of health inequities. This is why we felt it was so important to connect this work with health and conduct this assessment.”

East Harlem residents have higher rates for a number of health conditions — including asthma, high blood pressure, infant mortality and diabetes — than in Manhattan and the rest of the city, according to the study.

For instance, there were 75 child asthma hospitalizations per 10,000 children aged 5 to 14 in the neighborhood compared to less than half that in the borough and the city as a whole.

The neighborhood also has higher unemployment, a higher poverty rate and a higher percentage of residents with less than a high school diploma, according to the study.

The median household income is $31,380 in East Harlem as compared to $76,185 in Manhattan and $53,053 in the city.

East Harlem has also outpaced the city in increases in median rent over the past 13 years, the study said.

And because a large portion of income goes to rent, postponing medical care or treatment becomes common.

“It affects the family’s ability to access basic needs like healthy foods, transportation and daycare,” said Lindsey Realmuto, one of the study’s authors.  

“The more money you spend on housing, the less you have to spend on other needs.”

Residents often face harassment from landlords, eviction, homelessness or live in poorly-maintained housing, the study’s authors said.

For instance, roughly 65 of every 1,000 privately-owned building in the neighborhood had “serious housing code violations,” according to the study.

“The loss of affordable housing units and increased rent creates unmanageable living conditions for many residents,” the study warned.

Some of the ways in which the city can remedy the issues, the study said, include monitoring the building code violations and the environmental conditions closely, lowering the range of affordability targets in new housing developments and working with private landlords to prevent displacement.