August 19, 2013

More Signs of and Tools in the Affordability Crisis in the City


The Cluster Site Program of the New York City’s Department of Homeless Services was the focus of a recent piece by WNYC’s Cindy Rodriguez entitled “To Create Housing for Homeless, Landlords Evict Paying Tenants.” The piece reminds the listener that the approximate $3,000 a month rent exceeds the area’s market rents, ends up taking a typical rental apartment off the market and makes finding an affordable apartment even more difficult for New Yorkers.

UNHP highlighted the problems with the Cluster Site Program in our “Nowhere to Go” report, on our blog and in our June newsletter. NWBronx organizations were contacted for the NYC piece as the program is prevalent in our Bronx neighborhoods. The statistics in the WNYC report appear to show that the program despite its widespread unpopularity is growing.  In January 2013, reported that there were 2,011 apartments in the Cluster Site Program and the WNYC reported documented 2500 apartments in the program.

It is our hope that the ongoing attention to the program’s flaws will result in the development of a new policy and program that does not pit the homeless against typical renters in many neighborhoods of the Bronx and New York City. Addressing the flaws in the Cluster Site Program is necessary in the short-term, but in the long-term it is crucial to address the root causes of the recent increases in homelessness in New York City, including declining wages, cuts in rental subsidies, and ever increasing rents.

The Center for Housing Policy has updated a database that compares Fair Market Rents for the first quarter of 2013 in 207 metropolitan areas against wages in 76 different occupations. The Atlantic Cities August 15, 2013, article entitled “The Many, Many Jobs that Won’t Earn You Enough to Live in Your City” includes links to the database. You can pick a metropolitan area and up to 10 types of jobs to compare wages to fair market rents. This useful tool paints a very clear picture of how tough it is getting for working people to meet rental obligations.

Old tools remain important in the fight for fair wages and decent affordable housing. PBS’s Bill Moyers & Company featured successful community organizing movements both old (the United Farm workers Grape Boycott) and new (unionizing housekeepers) on his most recent show, Making Social Movements Matter and Fighting For Fairness.