At a meeting attended by hundreds in an East New York church earlier this year, the city was asked to build 15,000 units of affordable housing for seniors over the next four years. At $500 million a year, the commitment would total $2 billion, building on vacant land owned by NYCHA. A few months earlier the mayor said the city’s goal was to build 30,000 units for seniors, with 300,000 affordable apartments overall built by 2026. The budget passed for this fiscal year, however, does allocate $500 million, but the mayor says the $2 billion dollars will take longer to materialize.
“These people need housing now, not in 2025,” 64-year-old Ms. Williams, a rally attendee, said at the time.
In July, Mayor de Blasio announced at a press conference that 32,116 affordable homes had been financed by the city last year, breaking an all-time-record. He added that another record had been broken with the 9,140 newly-constructed affordable homes built.
Donna Corrado, commissioner of the Department for the Aging, attended the press conference and expressed her concern for the elderly looking for housing.
“Like so many New Yorkers, finding affordable housing remains a primary concern for older adults living on limited incomes. Preserving affordable housing helps more seniors remain in the communities where they raised their families and have a network of formal and informal supports, which are essential for them to age in place.”
State law does not allow the mayor to prohibit the deregulation of vacant city apartments. Hopes are the new Democratic majority in the state Senate will address this. To Mayor Bill de Blasio’s credit his administration froze one-year lease rents – for the first time in the city’s history – in 2015 and 2016. There were increases in 2018 of 1% for one-year leases and 2.5 percent for two-year leases. The mayor has been criticized, though, for failing to take a muscular stand when rent laws were renewed in 2015.
Policy experts estimate that the number of truly affordable housing units lost to deregulation during the Giuliani and Bloomberg years range from 100,000 to 300,000. Both administrations also built more “affordable units” for people making over $100,000 than it did for low-income New Yorkers.
Fast-forward to today and all these factors have contributed to the crisis for seniors. De Blasio’s new housing has not been affordable to most seeking to remain in their neighborhoods – and these are working-age individuals, not seniors on fixed incomes. State law does not allow the mayor to prohibit the deregulation of vacant city apartments. Hopes are the new Democratic majority in the state Senate will address this.
Part of the new plan is to free up apartments in public housing long held by seniors, making them available to be developed, for and rented to, the more than 200,000 people on waiting lists for affordable housing. The seniors would be relocated to newly-built units designed for their safety, ease, and preference for more communal spaces.
There are currently over one million people over 65 living in New York City, with close to half a million over the age of 75. A 2016 study by the advocacy group LiveOn NY reported that close 111,000 seniors were on waiting lists for affordable housing, with many of them expected to be on the lists 7-10 years after applying. A condition that advocates for elders finds unacceptable.