Affordable Housing at Risk in East Harlem

Across many communities in 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 as a district with a diverse population in income, race and ethnicity. But with government subsidies due to expire, residents, government and apartment owners will need to work together to extend preservation of affordable housing.

In a new report, RPA conducted an unprecedented survey of East Harlem's more than 40,000 rent-regulated units. Based on the findings, RPA 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 maintain 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.

This report, the second in a series focused on rent-regulated housing, represents a collaborative revitalization effort between Regional Plan Association and Manhattan 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 also reflects RPA's longstanding interest in enhancing the economic health of East Harlem, beginning with work the organization did in the late 1990s to help create the community plan for the eventual building of the Second Avenue subway. In addition to bolstering the community of East Harlem, we hope the latest research can provide a model for other neighborhoods facing a similar loss of affordable housing.