A Dual Challenge: Growing Population, Rising Rents

The population of New York City continues to grow, with estimates projecting that the City will have 300,000 more people in 2020 than it did in 2010. This reflects New York’s role as a center for the arts, education, and industry, and as a magnet that continues to retain current residents and to attract new ones. The growth is also the result of a rising birth rate and the fact that more New Yorkers are both living longer and choosing to remain in The City as they age in place. At the same time, rents are also on the rise. Between 2005 and 2012, after adjusting for inflation, New York City rents rose by 11% while renters’ incomes stagnated.

Given these combined tensions, it is no wonder the affordable housing shortage in New York City has reached a crisis point. In 2012, almost 55% of all rental households were rent-burdened (spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing costs). More than 30% of rental households are “severely rent-burdened” (paying more than a full half of their incomes on housing costs). These high rent burdens affect nearly every income group in every neighborhood across the five boroughs.

The demand for affordable housing is illustrated by the response to new housing lotteries since the City fully launched its new online resource, NYC Housing Connect, which enables the public to search the website for housing opportunities and submit electronic applications. More than a quarter of a million people have already registered for the site. The three HDC housing developments that marketed through the new system in 2013 each attracted more than 25,000 applications and averaged a ratio of approximately 300 applicants for every one unit of affordable housing those developments provided. These response volumes have only continued to grow as the public’s awareness about the Housing Connect system has increased.

A Dual Benefit: Building for People Who Then Help Build Their Communities

The opportunity for quality and attainable housing has a dramatic impact on the quality of life itself. By reducing housing costs, families can allocate more resources to other critical expenses such as medical care and education, which in turn contribute to improved health and long-term financial security. Comprehensive and compelling research is presently under way to more specifically explore and document the powerful benefits of the affordable housing that has been created by HDC and our partners at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). HPD, in partnership with research teams from several prestigious universities, is conducting a long-term study to quantify the effect on thousands of New Yorkers who have applied to our programs, half of whom received an affordable unit and half of whom did not. And one of the developments highlighted later in this report, Arbor House, is partnering with Mount Sinai Hospital to conduct a study about the effect that particular site’s green and active design elements have had on the health of its residents.

Ultimately, all three developments highlighted in this year’s annual report, and the residents who are spotlighted, already reflect the very real – and reciprocal – power and benefits of affordable housing. It is, after all, the residents of our housing who turn not only their apartments, but the surrounding communities, into their homes. This creates a foundation for those neighborhoods that can extend to a corresponding growth in quality commercial, retail, and cultural amenities that would not be possible without their support. This strengthened sense of community can also encourage healthier living and promote a shared resilience in the face of individual challenges. The descriptions of these three housing developments demonstrate how buildings and people both become collectively and inextricably woven into the very fabric of their communities.