I think by now you get the picture: Living standards for tenants in rent regulated buildings in the outer boroughs are shamefully low. It seems that definitions of terms like “habitable” and “quality” vary dramatically depending on your zip code. Although banks and landlords may fool people with cosmetic repairs that make the buildings appear “good…for the Bronx…”, this racist double standard cannot mask the serious public health concerns that result from wide-spread neighborhood disinvestment.
Tenants in buildings affected by predatory equity are often living in apartments with hazardous conditions that severely impact their health and safety. Problems such as persistent leaks, mold, rodent infestation, collapsing ceilings and floors, infrequent heat and hot water, faulty electricity, prevalence of lead paint and asbestos, and lack of security cameras and/or front door locks, are commonplace in these buildings. These problems are bad in and of themselves, but when you think about the extent to which they have contributed to high levels of asthma, frequent dangerous accidents, exposure to extreme weather conditions, and weakened immune systems (especially for children, elderly, and persons living with HIV/AIDS), predatory equity seems even more criminal. Tenants additionally report high levels of stress, anxiety and depression due to the fear of losing their home, landlord harassment, and the financial burden of compensating for landlord or lender negligence.
Recently, UHAB has teamed up with the Committee of Interns and Residents, a union of health care professionals, to create a program which directly addresses the causal relationship between deteriorating building conditions and a growing health crisis. The program intends to provide tenants in distressed buildings with free medical screenings, services, and health resources on-site in their building. The program launched this month at 2239-41 Creston Avenue in the Bronx. We are hoping that this initiative will provide much needed relief for the tenants as well as build new alliances with groups committed to challenging the damaging costs of the lower standard of living.