East Harlem Affordable Housing at Risk

Across New York City, the availability of affordable housing is in jeopardy. Despite efforts by city government to preserve or create thousands of affordable housing units, rent protections for much of the existing stock will expire in the coming decades. Nowhere is this challenge more apparent than in Manhattan's East Harlem neighborhood, where most residents live in some form of rent-regulated housing.

Affordable housing has long been central to East Harlem's identity and success. But due to the expiration of government subsidies, many of East Harlem's residents are at risk of being priced out of their homes and neighborhood.

In a new report, RPA has conducted an unprecedented survey of East Harlem's more than 40,000 rent-regulated units. Based on the data collected, RPA has determined that nearly one-third of regulated housing units will lose their rent protection by 2040.

Some 2,600 units will lose their rent-regulated status far sooner, by 2020, raising the risk of a shortfall in affordable housing in East Harlem in the next few years. The report lays out a range of strategies that community residents and leaders can pursue to preserve an adequate supply of affordable housing. Those strategies include working directly with owners to keep these units affordable; encouraging residents' participation in public-housing initiatives; and providing safety nets for tenant relocation when deregulation does occur.

View the full report.

The study also suggests that nonprofit community land trusts could be used to sustain the supply of affordable units. In a community land trust, a nonprofit entity acquires and maintains control of a property on behalf of residents and preserves the affordability of any existing or future housing on the property.

Regional Plan Association has a longstanding interest in enhancing the economic health of East Harlem, from its work in the late 1990s to help the community plan for the eventual building of the Second Avenue subway to recent efforts to develop neighborhood housing strategies. This report, the second in a series focused on rent-regulated housing, represents a collaborative revitalization effort between Regional Plan Association and East Harlem Community Board 11 aimed at strengthening the community. The first report, released in July 2011, looked at trends in and composition of East Harlem's rental housing. The research can provide a model for other neighborhoods facing a similar loss of affordable housing.

The East Harlem housing survey was made possible by the generous support of the Citi Foundation and PNC Foundation. Manhattan Community Board 11 provided guidance and support.