‘What About Us?’ Neighbors Question de Blasio on ‘Affordable’ Housing

‘What About Us?’ Neighbors Question de Blasio on ‘Affordable’ Housing
Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner

BEDFORD STUYVESANT – Homeless activists and VOCAL-NY stood outside a luxury apartment building– which the City has deemed offers mostly “affordable” housing — to protest how un-affordable it actually is.

348 Nostrand Avenue is a residential building that sits on Nostrand Avenue near the corner of Lexington Avenue. The building includes 15 apartments; nine of them are deemed affordable. To be eligible for those affordable apartments, a person needs to be making at least $68,572 a year. The monthly rent starts at $2,000 and goes up to $2,475. Activists are asking, “Who is this really affordable for?”

Charisma White is a native Brooklynite. She currently lives in Sunset Park, where she moved into an apartment about six months ago. She was also homeless for three years.

“Affordable housing in NY is not affordable. What I do see going up in these neighborhoods are these developments, these luxury developments,” she said. “What is so luxurious about these developments that you’re excluding certain people from getting into these apartments?”

White believes that even market-rate apartments aren’t affordable. She currently pays $1,600 a month for rent but wonders if it’s worth it. The pipes under her sink are broken and her ceiling has fallen in.

“I don’t understand why it should be too much to live in a comfortable apartment where you don’t have to harass the landlord to fix something?”

Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner

About a dozen people held posters that read “Affordable? My A$$” and “Stop lying. House homeless New Yorkers now!” They also chanted things like, “Fight, fight, fight, housing is a human right!”

Felix Guzman, a member of VOCAL-NY, asked if providing just nine units of “affordable” housing makes sense. “Is this a proper use of space in NYC given the context of the homelessness problem right now?”

“The Mayor is misleading the public. Units should not count unless they are affordable to people who need them the most,” Guzman said. “Big luxury developments are hurting communities like Bed-Stuy. They make the problem much worse. The rents are going to go higher all around. This is just subsidized gentrification basically.”

348 Nostrand Avenue. (Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner)

As we reported back September, these activists have a point; who is the Mayor’s affordable housing plan really affordable for?

A home is considered “affordable” if you don’t spend more than 1/3 of your income on it. For the person making $101,040 a year, or $8,420.20 a month, even the studio unit at 15 Bridge Park is not affordable by that definition, as 33% comes out to $2,778.68. And that’s not counting taxes, which makes the housing even less affordable.

Currently, de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan creates twice as many units for households who can afford rents above $2,500, then for those who are homeless. The House Our Future NY campaign called on the Mayor to set aside 30,000 units of his housing plan for homeless New Yorkers, including 24,000 of these units to be created through new construction.” The Mayor’s Plan expects at least 300,000 affordable units to be built by 2026.

Charisma White. (Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner)

Activists and neighbors are demanding actual affordable housing, and they are demanding it now. They argue that luxury developments don’t benefit anyone, especially the homeless population in NYC.

“We all deserve to live comfortably without problems and discrimination,” White said. “Housing is a human right and we will not be held back from things we need to survive. We’re not leaving, we’re fighting back. So what about us?”