This week’s focus is on housing in New York City. On Wednesday we visited the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, and discussed the issues surrounding the affordable housing crisis happening throughout the five boroughs. Zoning regulations are being changed and allowing high rise luxury building to be developed in low-income neighborhoods. Apartments are being renovated and rented out for triple the amount it used to be. Rent prices are skyrocketing and many residents are being forced to move out of their neighborhoods because they can no longer afford to live there. One problem is that many of the buildings that still offer affordable housing are aging and are usually not well maintained. NYCHA is beginning a new initiative called NextGen, through which they hope to implement strategies that improve their organization as well as their residents’ daily lives. Their tenant empowerment strategies are especially interesting. For example, they will work to connect residents to quality workforce opportunities by increasing its partnerships job placement programs and creating its own focused on teaching its residents new trades. Their goal is connect up to 4,000 residents to jobs annually by 2025.
After the NYCHA visit, the students split into smaller groups and visited organizations that advocate and help residents living in affordable housing units in different neighborhoods. We visited a non-profit organization in the southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn called Los Sures. This organization was founded in the 1970s when the housing market crashed. They advocate for and develop affordable housing in the neighborhood. They also educate residents concerning their rights as renters and assist them with issues they encounter. This has become especially important recently since more and more tenants are facing harassment from landlords. Our speaker Chelsea shared that landlords in Williamsburg have gone as far as to shut off tenants’ gas and electricity in order to intimidate them into leaving their building, only to renovate and hike up the price of their apartment soon after their departure. Los Sures empowers residents to unite through tenant associations and assists them in the process of taking their case to Housing Court through their partnership with the Brooklyn Legal Association.
Eli Valenzuela ’17 and Alex Perez ’17