South Bronx Households Underserved by ‘Affordable’ Construction Boom
Affordable New Construction in Bronx CD1 and CD2
By Trevor Boyer
For households with the least means, a housing lottery can feel like the Powerball: The percentage of apartments set aside for the lowest income levels is often vanishingly small.
In affordable housing lotteries in Community District 1 and Community District 2 in the Bronx, about 55% of the population is competing for the 29% of new units that, since 2014, have been designated for the lowest income levels. While the majority of the affordable housing units are designated for households with “low incomes,” their rents are out of reach for the median household in the two districts, which comprise Melrose, Mott Haven, Port Morris, Longwood and Hunts Point.
This chart relies on data from New York's Housing Preservation and Development (via NYC Open Data) to tally all affordable housing developments begun from 2014-2017 in Community Districts 1 and 2 in the South Bronx, and data from the 2011-2015 American Community Survey on income levels found in the districts. In Bronx CD1 and CD2, the average household has 2.95 members. Assuming three-person households, it’s possible to compare the percentage of the population at each income level with the percentage of new affordable housing set aside roughly for each income level.
For an apartment to be considered “affordable,” its tenant must spend no more than 30% of household income on rent. What determines the relative levels of housing affordability is the Area Median Income, or AMI. For New York, the Area Median Income in 2017 is $85,900 for a family of three. “Low income” for a three-person family sits at 60% of AMI, or $51,540.
The median income for households in Bronx CD1 and CD2 is $22,001, or less than 30% of AMI. That’s considered “extremely low income,” the lowest income tier for affordable apartments. (Citywide, about 27% of households are at 30% AMI or lower.) Apartments offered for households at the lowest income levels require heavy subsidies, which has contributed to their scarcity.
“In New York City it is probably the worst served segment of affordable housing,” says Robert Silverman, professor of urban and regional planning at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. “New York requires more housing subsidies at all income levels due to the higher cost of housing in general.”
Indeed, New York subsidizes apartments set aside for households that make well over $100,000 – a measure of just how deep the city’s affordability crisis runs. ■