As anyone who lives in New York City knows, housing is hard to come by, and unlike most big American cities, New York is overwhelmingly a rental market. More than two-thirds of New Yorkers are renters. Two-thirds of those renters benefit from some type of rent regulation. New York operates 170,000 units of public housing, far and away the largest public housing program anywhere in the United States. At Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. we believe in the importance of maintaining New York City’s commitment to affordable, safe and equitable housing for everyone.
For low-income individuals and families, the New York housing market can prove to be rough waters to navigate. While New York has historically offered a variety of assistance to renters, the current economic conditions have hit the city hard. We are facing a serious shortage of affordable housing, rising rent and falling incomes a recipe for a major housing crisis. A sharp decline in affordable housing options is leaving many families with nowhere to turn.
As a result, New York City’s homeless population has risen dramatically in recent years. Every day more than 30,000 homeless New Yorkers reside in shelters, a higher number than at any point in the 1980s or 1990s. In June 2009, over 8,600 homeless families with more than 14,000 children bedded down each night in municipal shelters, only slightly fewer than when the mayor unveiled his plan to reduce homelessness by two-thirds four years ago.
Unfortunately, immigrant communities are being especially affected by the affordable housing shortage. Many immigrants live in housing that is not publicly subsidized, and therefore more susceptible to rent increases or evictions. Immigrants also make up a vast majority of the low-wage workforce. This means that immigrants are seeing fewer housing options and larger rent burdens.
This is bad news for New York City, because immigrants have been largely responsible for the revitalization of many New York neighborhoods that were previously facing decline and abandonment. They have brought life back to many communities in the city, boosting community investment and raising property values. Without these immigrants, these neighborhoods would have been abandoned and vacant.
This issues are further complicated for many immigrants by a limited English proficiency. When landlords refuse to make repairs to housing, often immigrant families simply endure deplorable and dangerous housing conditions. These families are often unable to communicate with the people, such as housing inspectors, who could force negligent landlords to make the necessary repairs. These families are more likely to live in substandard housing and to be alienated from the agencies that exist to provide assistance to them.
What resources are available when you have housing issues? A natural place to start is the NYC Affordable Housing Resource Center, a government agency that provides information on all aspects of city housing, including assistance with issues such as apartment maintenance problems, renting apartments and buying homes.
We’ve also compiled a list of other organizations that can help with your housing issues.
Additional Resources: Affordable, Safe and Equitable Housing Resources