Friday News Round-Up

Hello all. Here are some things going on in the New York City housing world this week:

  • NY Daily News wrote an article on what it touts as “the smallest apartment in New York” – a 100 square foot apartment in Harlem going for $1,275 a month. Residential rooms must be at least 150 square feet according to City Housing Maintenance Code, but the developer, Shanghai Holdings, is filing to convert the building’s single-room occupancy status, and is advertising to single students and young professionals who might be willing to deal with the cramped space in exchange for relatively low rent.
  • Mayor Bloomberg has set aside $732 million for public housing repairs. Work has already begun at Kingsborough and Kingsborough Extension in Brooklyn. This effort is part of the New York City Housing Authority’s five-year public housing roadmap, Plan NYCHA.

“Unlike other cities around the country, our Administration is deeply committed to preserving and improving our public housing system, despite the major budgetary challenges involved in doing so,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We’ve found creative ways to generate capital and reduce the backlog of repairs, and this bond issuance will further that progress.”

  •  Taconic Investment Partners, L + M Development partners, and BFC Partners were chosen by the city to redevelop the Seward Park urban renewal area on the Lower East Side. Their plans include 1,000 low, moderate, and middle-income apartments, an urban farm, a bowling alley, an Andy Warhol museum, retail space, and office space for tech companies. The site is in a gentrifying area that has a history of displacement – 2,000 families lost their homes when the tenements there were demolished in 1967. A community task force created a list of demands and they say this new proposal meets many of them – including a mix of market rate and affordable units and storm-strengthening of the buildings, which are not far from the East River.
  •  The Census Bureau released data on Thursday that confirms that New York City’s poverty rate is climbing. The percentage rose from 20.9% in 2011 to 21.2% in 2012, a difference of 1.7 million people. With wages staying the same, this means a lot of New Yorkers are struggling as the income gap widens. However, to get a broader perspective, among the 20 largest cities in the country, NYC has dropped from the 6th highest rate of poverty to the 13th since 2000.
  • A brownstone in Park Slope is up for sale for the first time in 50 years, after the death of its previous owners, the Ortners. The couple were involved in Park Slope’s revival, carefully renovating their brownstone, hosting a “back to the city” conference, and being instrumental in the landmarking of the Park Slope Historic district. The Observer wonders whether all of the Ortners’ restoration work will be scrapped in favor of a more modern, sleek, luxurious look for the new owners, who will be moving into a very different neighborhood than the Ortners did in 1963. “Never again, never again, never again will houses of this quality be built for the middle class of the city,” Mr. Ortner once said. We are determined to prove him wrong, as we work towards quality housing for all.

Have a great weekend as we officially transition into autumn!


Homelessness Jeopardizes Health! Who Knew?

In 2008, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago led a coalition of hospitals and housing groups in conducting a study that investigated the impact of housing on health. The study was called the Chicago Housing for Health Partnership, or CHHP.

The study surveyed a group of 407 homeless folks that were battling with chronic illnesses. Half of the participants were placed in permanent housing with intensive follow-up by a social worker. The other half received ‘usual care,’ which included access to emergency shelters as well as recovery programs. Over the course of four years, doctors measured the health implications of permanent versus non-permanent housing.

The findings were stark.

The participants living in permanent housing utilized “one-third fewer inpatient hospital days and one-quarter fewer emergency room visits” than folks receiving ‘usual care.’ Additionally, there were 583 hospitalizations in the permanent housing group, while there were 743 in the ‘usual care’ group. Such results prove that permanent housing improves health dramatically.

Specifically, participants battling with HIV saw their health significantly enhanced. The study found the following:

  • After one year, 55 percent of HIV-positive participants in the intervention arm had a relatively healthy immune system, compared to 34 percent in the usual group.
  • 40 percent of HIV-positive participants in the intervention group had undetectable levels of HIV in their blood, indicating that treatment was highly successful, compared to 21 percent of usual care participants.
  • The median HIV viral load was 87 percent lower in the intervention group. A low viral load is evidence that treatment is working and reducing levels of HIV in the bloodstream.

Permanent housing accompanied by case management not only improved participant’s health, but it also saved the city a significant amount of money. The experiment proved that of “every 100 chronically homeless individuals housed [the government] will save nearly $1M in public funds per year.” According to The Wall Street Journal, the study elucidated that 201 participants living in permanent housing spent 5,500 days in nursing homes, while 206 ‘usual care’ participants spent 10,023 days in nursing homes. The difference in services amounted to approximately $500,000. While some perceive permanent housing as an unreasonably high expenditure, continuing to pursue the status quo is perpetuating our current deficit.

The CHHP study illustrates that permanent housing breaks the cycle of poverty. As affordable housing becomes scarcer and government continues to cut social services, we worry that folks with low or no income will have less access to permanent housing.  To adequately lessen the pervasiveness of homelessness and curtail chronic illness, providing stable and sustainable alleviation measures is necessary.

“How to End the Cycle of Homelessness”…A Work in Progress

The NY Daily News published an opinion article today about the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness‘ newly released report titled “A New Path: An Immediate Plan to Reduce Family Homelessness.”  This report establishes a framework to confront homelessness in New York City, advocating for a multiplicity of paths to obtain permanent, stable housing.  The report lays out three tiers, or tracks, that families would be placed in based on need.  The first tier would be to place families straight into affordable housing, presumably helping them locate the housing and assisting with rent.  The second tier would be to locate housing, but also help with employment opportunities and other basic social services.  The third tier would be most similar to a shelter, only renamed “Community Residential Resource Centers” in which families live in the center and receive intensive job training, education, counseling, and assistance with child reunification.  Ideally, according to the report, these centers would also function as resources for the neighborhood at large.

While we at UHAB don’t deal directly with issues of homelessness, the majority of buildings we work in have at some point provided housing for New Yorkers in the Work Advantage program.  Sadly, we have witnessed heartbreaking stories from tenants who were in the program but whose benefits have been cut, leaving them with no options but to wait for the marshal to evict them.  The termination of Work Advantage for thousands of New Yorkers has not only effected individual families, but entire buildings.  Once the city stops paying a tenant’s rent, a landlord has less income to make repairs or continue paying a mortgage.  Buildings, as a result, more easily fall into states of disrepair, impacting the lives of all tenants and the larger community as well.

Predatory Equity destroys opportunities for families in New York to live in well-kept, safe, affordable housing.  This reality makes us skeptical of new programs which address homelessness, but don’t provide preservation plans or proposals for creation of new affordable housing.  One cannot go without the other.  Our question is in what buildings and neighborhoods will families be placed?  What ensures this program to be more sustainable than the Work Advantage program? Until the threat of continuous loss of affordable housing is quelled, we feel this plan will not be successful.

Maybe it’s time to ask homeless people themselves what services they want…Picture the Homeless,  a grassroots organizing group of homeless folks demanding respect and human rights, have a lot to say on the matter.


To read more about the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness report, click here.

To read more about Picture the Homeless’ recent action in response to a recent NY Post article, click here.