Overcrowded Apartments in The Bronx on The Rise; Is This What’s Overburdening Our Mass Transit?

Image via The Real Deal
Image via The Real Deal

Last week The Real Deal talked about how it appeared that certain developments may be responsible for a 9% increase in subway ridership in The Bronx between 2009 and 2014 and while that may be the case for a few of the stations, none of the others are proximate to actual new developments to account for increases as high as 34% at 176th Street on the 4 line.

While looking at the infographic above, there have been no major developments constructed in the East Bronx in Eastchester near the Gun Hill Road Station on the 5 Dyre Avenue line which saw a 28% increase in ridership and the same goes for Parkchester which saw a 19% jump. Kingsbridge and Bedford Park Boulevard along the 4 train, which saw a jump of 11% and 10% respectively also didn’t have any major new construction housing to account for such large increases.

Could lack of housing and truly affordable housing be the reason? Let’s also not forget that once upon a time we also had the Third Avenue El when our population was at its peak and now that we’re reaching that historical peak again, a major mass transit link is missing.

In an exclusive report by the Daily News last month, it was revealed that according to a report by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office, the city had seen an increase by 20% in overcrowded units from 2005 to 2013 with The Bronx showing a 14% increase during the same time frame.

Image Via The Daily News
Image Via The Daily News

An overcrowded unit was described as one where there were more than 1 person living per room in a unit.

In raw numbers, The Bronx went from 51,787 overcrowded units in 2005 to 59,759 in 2013.

Between the 2000 and 2010 census along with 2013 estimates The Bronx saw a population increase of approximately 100,000 resulting in a roughly 7.4% increase to put things into perspective.

We know we have a housing crisis coupled with an affordability crisis, that’s no secret. In a report issued by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness in 2014 The Bronx accounted for the majority of people and families entering the shelter system accounting for 1/3 of those in NYC entering the system.

ICPH also indicated in a 2011 opinion survey that 46.9% of those polled, concentrated in the West and South Bronx, were worried about becoming homeless[pdf file] due to escalating rents and underemployment.


With the mayor’s plan and push for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) to achieve his goal for preserving and creating 200,000 units of affordable housing (only 80,000 are proposed to actually be construction under his plan), this does not go far enough to protect our residents.

We already know that affordable housing is a lie and it isn’t truly affordable for the residents where they are built and it’s not even affordable to our young, working professionals who want to stay in their neighborhoods but can’t because the are also rent burdened.

An article in Jacobin Magazine, ‘De Blasio’s Doomed Housing Plan‘ writes of MIH:

“Inclusionary zoning is a fatally flawed program. It’s not just that it doesn’t produce enough units, or that the apartments it creates aren’t affordable, though both observations are undeniably true. The real problem with inclusionary zoning is that it marshals a multitude of rich people into places that are already experiencing gentrification. The result is a few new cheap apartments in neighborhoods that are suddenly and completely transformed.

De Blasio wants to use inclusionary zoning to create sixteen thousand apartments for families making $42,000. That’s just 3 percent of the need for such apartments in the city today, according to the plan’s own figures. At the same time, the mayor’s policies would build one hundred thousand more market-rate apartments in the same neighborhoods. What will happen when these rich people arrive? Rents in the surrounding area will rise; neighborhood stores will close; more working-class people will be displaced by gentrification than will be housed in the new inclusionary complexes.

Tom Angotti, the director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development, argues that inclusionary zoning’s proponents “deal with housing as if it existed in a free market — as if it were just a matter of individual apartments combined. But it exists in a land market, where values are determined largely by location and zoning capacity. In areas with high land values, the new inclusionary development will just feed the fire of gentrification.”

Worst of all, inclusionary zoning could actually incentivize the destruction of existing affordable housing. Many New York City neighborhoods are filled with rent-regulated apartments, often at lower densities than the new inclusionary zoning rules would allow. The average income for rent-stabilized tenants is $37,000; for rent controlled tenants it’s $29,000. Both are significantly lower than the income targets for many inclusionary apartments.

When neighborhoods are upzoned to allow bigger buildings, rent-stabilized landlords will have every reason to sell their properties to speculative developers. The new buyers could then evict all the tenants, knock down the existing properties, and build something bigger and more expensive. A percentage of the new building would be affordable, but the outcome would likely be a net loss in low-cost apartments and a major hit to the rent-regulated housing stock.

So far, most inclusionary developments have been built on empty lots and converted commercial sites. But if the program is dramatically expanded, inclusionary zoning could actually hasten the loss of affordable housing in New York.

Even if all this happens, the plan will likely be touted as a success. The new affordable apartments will be easy to spot, but those lost will not. Inclusionary zoning might displace more poor people than it houses, but when the system’s casualties aren’t counted, they aren’t seen.”

It’s no wonder that NYC is experiencing an increase of overcrowded apartments as families move in together to cut down on expenses or even rent out an apartment too small for their families because there aren’t enough truly affordable units for growing families in our working class neighborhoods.

So the issue really isn’t about developments increasing subway ridership in The Bronx, the real issue seems to be the overcrowding of our current housing stock. The current zoning proposals aren’t the magic solution we are being led to believe they are.


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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.