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Are NYC's affordable housing policies tantamount to segregation?

By Virginia K. Smith  | July 9, 2015 - 2:04PM

It's a well-known fact of NYC's affordable housing system that when spots open up in a subsidized 80/20 project, half of them will be reserved for current residents of the building's neighborhood. But according to a new federal lawsuit just filed by the Anti-Discrimination Center on behalf of  three New York residents, the New York Times reports, the policy violates both the federal Fair Housing Law and the city's Human Rights Law, and helps to reinforce residential segregation. 

According to the suit, the city's "outsider-restriction policy [...] ignores the negative impact on families in the city who live in racially concentrated areas of poverty," as well as "the positive effects of residential mobility for families who are able to move into neighborhoods of higher opportunity."

The last we heard about this policy at the start of the year, affordable housing activists were actually looking to expand the bounds of the neighborhood requirement portion of applications, opening it up not just to current area residents but anyone with proof (in the form of a Con Ed bill, etc.) that they had lived in the area within a certain timeframe. The idea here was to give a leg up to onetime neighborhood residents who might have been priced out of a gentrifying area before any affordable housing options had opened up. "We're fighting to have a callback to people who were living in neighborhoods when the new development started," Churches United for Fair Housing executive director Rob Solano told us at the time. 

If this new suit is successful, however, neighborhood preference could be eliminated altogether, opening up every new building to the inevitable flood of applications that come from all corners of the city (and beyond). We're curious to see how this one plays out.


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