A Yearly Snapshot of What’s Threatening NYC Tenants

Bronx tenants march to show their support of better policies to protect themselves and their neighborhoods from displacement. (Photo by Oscar Perry Abello)

The Bronx is burning, and no I’m not referring to structure fires, I’m referring to the borough’s real estate market. Out of the top ten NYC Community Districts experiencing the highest percentage rise in price per square foot in residential sales, nine were in the Bronx. There are only twelve NYC Community Districts in the borough.

That’s according to the newly released 2018 edition of “How is Affordable Housing Threatened in Your Neighborhood?,” an annual report measuring housing risk compiled by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

The Bronx is also home to seven of the top ten NYC community districts facing the most evictions performed by court marshals in 2017, according to the report.

That evictions and rising residential sales prices coincide is no surprise to local tenant organizers, who have been tracking the pattern of speculative landlords buying up rent-stabilized buildings, harrassing or evicting current tenants and taking advantage of state regulations to flip buildings into market-rate and selling the buildings for a much higher price to larger investors. Evidence of that pattern was strong enough for New York City Council to pass a bill last year establishing an early warning system to detect and hopefully prevent further displacement as a result of such practices.

The report also touches on more universal risks to affordable housing, such as the upcoming expiration dates for many affordable housing units built using low-income housing tax credits. Between 2020 and 2024, nearly 5,000 units of affordable housing built using low-income housing tax credits in New York City will reach their expiration dates, typically 15 or 30 years after they’re built. At that point, owners may choose to cash out and sell them on the open market, converting them most likely to market-rate housing.

Last year, a new collaborative effort called the Joint-Ownership Entity for Community-Based Housing in NYC began acquiring expiring low-income housing tax credit units and preserving them as affordable.

There are also thousands of federally-subsidized units scattered across NYC that are at risk of losing their federal subsidies between 2018 and 2022, according to the report.

“What we are seeing in HUD-subsidized housing in gentrifying neighborhoods is that landlords are avoiding entering into long-term contracts or extensions of their contracts, which leaves residents wondering how long their housing will remain affordable,” said Gloria Villatoro, Vista Organizer at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, in a statement on the release of the report. “The tenants who suffer the most are the elderly, people with disabilities, or formerly homeless families. Stable housing is particularly important for these residents, and living with insecurity takes a serious toll on them.”

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