The Rent Really is Too Damn High: Affordable Housing Not So Affordable After All

Courtlandt Corners I & II (II is on the left and is now know as 'The Upton') on 161st Street between Courtlandt and Melrose Avenues.
Courtlandt Corners I & II (II is on the left and is now know as ‘The Upton’) on 161st Street between Courtlandt and Melrose Avenues.

The Daily News just released an exclusive report on how some affordable tenants are paying high rents—something we’ve been saying all along how “affordable housing” isn’t truly affordable.

Just this year Courtlandt Corners, an “affordable housing” development in Melrose (built by Phipps) began calling one of their buildings The Upton in a media campaign that would pop up in online ads calling it “affordable luxury”.

Studios at The Upton are being rented at $1,263 (well above the neighborhood range of $1,050-$1,100) for an individual making anywhere from $43,152 – $66,220, 1 bedrooms ranging from $1,292-$1,584 (average for a 1 bedroom is $1,200) for 1-2 individuals making $44,288-$75,680 a year, and 2 bedrooms from $1,525-$1,906 (average 2 bedroom apartment in the neighborhood is $1,450) for a family of 1-4 individuals making $52,268-$94,490 a year.

The article in The Daily News says:

“Nearly half of the affordable apartment tenants in a new survey say they’re now spending more than 30% of their income on rent — a level considered “rent-burdened.”

A stunning 14% say they’re spending more than 50% of their income on rent, which makes them “severely rent-burdened.”

The findings emerge in a report to be released Wednesday by the housing advocates Real Affordability for All.

The group, which has pressed Mayor de Blasio to ratchet up his current affordable housing campaign, said the survey shows “bait and switch” by builders of less expensive housing.”

“The survey found that a large percentage of the tenants cannot afford to live in their apartments and are either rent burdened or severely rent burdened,” the study states.

Last spring, the group surveyed 115 tenants at 16 randomly selected buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx built between 2001 and 2011 by the city’s major affordable housing players.

These buildings all got big tax breaks, so developers had to cap rent for eligible lower- and moderate-income tenants.

But as the years passed, incremental rent increases were allowed. With incomes flat for the last decade, rent costs begin to chew up renters’ budgets.

“Even in a low rent increase environment, the rents do go up,” said one affordable housing developer who reviewed the survey. “And if income is flat or if (a worker’s) hours are cut, the gap between 30% of income towards rent and the real rent paid over time continues to grow.”

One in three said their rent jumped more than 20%, while 11% saw their rent skyrocket more than 40%. That compares to an average 12% rent rise in New York City between 2005 and 2013, census data show.

Many people say that parts of The Bronx are safe from gentrification because of affordable housing but we’ve been asking for years, affordable for who? There’s also the fact that the affordability isn’t permanent in these existing buildings and eventually phase out and the landlords can opt to turn their buildings into market rate and as with the case with The Upton, those rents are well above market in Melrose.

Read the rest: EXCLUSIVE: Some affordable housing tenants pay high rent – NY Daily News

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.