October 10, 2014

How Will Bronx Buildings Survive as they Age?


​It’s no secret that the housing stock in New York City is aging. Here in the Bronx, the median age of multifamily apartment buildings is 87 years. In Community Board 6 it’s 98 years old. This map shows the year built of the nearly 8,000 multifamily(5+ units) Bronx buildings in our Building Indicator Project database. You can see the heavy concentration of buildings built before 1920 along Third Avenue, mixed with new construction. Further west along either side of the Grand Concourse, the vast majority of buildings were built during the 1920s and 1930s. This is no surprise when you look at when the subway lines were built in each neighborhood.

Median Age of Bronx Buildings

The aging housing stock presents multiple challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, the cost to repair buildings is often prohibitive given existing rents and the incomes of tenants. Many owners and managers make patchwork repairs and do not address underlying conditions in order to cut costs. This has a big impact on neighborhood residents who live in apartments where recurring leaks do damage to walls and ceilings repeatedly, for example. At the same time, the opportunity for economic development renovating the housing stock is immense. (While that’s a tremendously important conversation to have, it’s not what this blog post is about.)

The issue of property conditions was raised in a recent article in City and State, City in Distress. Highlighting the work tracking code violations and liens by UNHP in our BIP database, the article highlights a question we continue to ask:

“There are fewer high-scoring [severely distressed] buildings,” he said, “but we are focused now on trying to see whether more corrected violations means better real living conditions in the buildings.”

The City continues to

maintain and expand it’s housing code enforcement through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and they admit more work has to be done. A shared concern we have is that as the housing stock ages, and many owners don’t make repairs to the underlying conditions, will the buildings hold up with patchwork repair? What’s the impact of this on tenants? And finally, will the new legislation to write violations for underlying conditions to buildings in enforcement programs make a difference?

The data in the article also shows in which neighborhoods these questions are most relevant. Lower income communities of color, including most of the Bronx, upper Manhattan and central Brooklyn are home to the highest concentration of code violations issued thus far in 2014. Northwest Bronx zip code 10458 tops the list of most violations this year at 1,747.

Violations issued in 2014

In line with our commitment to decent affordable housing for the Bronx and all New Yorkers, we will continue to look at new ways to ensure that all families have the right to live in well maintained homes. The data is an extremely important tool in this work. You can read more about our work through BIP here.