Skip to main content

Regional Plan Association points to increased risk for displacement, especially in Brooklyn

I guess it's shouldn't be shocking that new map of census tracts vulnerable to displacement pretty much excludes Prospect Heights and the area in the orbit of Atlantic Yards.

From Regional Plan Association Pushed Out report;
the lighter yellow indicates risk of displacement;
the orange indicates more risk, given market shifts
That doesn't mean it's not vulnerable--I'll write separately about that--but it does mean it's already gone through significant economic shifts. And the gentrification train is going deeper into Brooklyn. ("Train" is right. Gentrification often correlates with transit accessibility.)

Take a look at the map at right, from a 3/1/17 report by the Regional Plan Association, which, however technocratic and corporate-supported, puts it pretty starkly: Pushed Out: Housing Displacement in an Unaffordable Region. The press release announced, Nearly One Million at Risk of Housing Displacement.

The triangular, orange census tract east of the word "Brooklyn" is tract 213, east of Prospect Park and below Eastern Parkway. The yellow tract directly north--after a gap in grey--is tract 223, between Grand and Franklin avenues, and Park Place and Bergen Street, in western Crown Heights.

The context

What's the context? Walkable, job- and transit-accessible neighborhoods get ever more attractive, given a decrease in crime and New York City's increasing cachet.

Housing costs rise, as wages remain stagnant. More and more households are housing- or rent-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing.

In New York City, as shown in the graphic below right, those spending more than 30% went from one-third to nearly half, from 2000 to 2015. And more than two-thirds of those vulnerable to displacement are black or Hispanic.

From RPA report
Solutions, short- and long-term

The solutions? In the near term, the RPA suggests:
  • extending access to legal counsel for low-income residents with eviction cases to communities region-wide
  • limiting rent increases in accordance with local regulations
  • expanding rental subsidies for low-income residents; 
  • incorporating displacement risk into local land-use decisions
Those are all partial measures, though politically challenging and not cheap. (Even more challenging would be to reduce the mortgage interest tax deduction.)

Then again, RPA notes that the costs of fighting displacement are justified by savings in public money "through prevention of future homelessness, lowered social service and emergency service needs, health savings through fewer unfunded emergency room visits and fewer law enforcement, housing court, and other governmental costs."

RPA is taking a broader look that points to increased supply:
In order to emphasize the importance of creating healthy, mixed-income communities, RPA’s fourth regional plan, A Region Transformed, will propose several strategies to promote fair housing, affordable mixed-income communities and greater housing choices for all of the region’s residents. These include substantially increasing housing production overall, requiring mixed-income housing throughout the region, reducing land use and policy barriers to multi-family housing production and encouraging more density in walkable and transit-accessible communities, and allowing for invisible intensification through using our existing buildings more efficiently to house more people.
In other words, it is a regional issue. (What about boosting transit?)

Drilling down

The report states:
From 2000 - 2015, households making more than $100,000 a year have grown by 160,000 in these accessible neighborhoods, while households making less than $100,000 have declined by 61,000 in these same neighborhoods1 . Households making under $25,000 in particular are seeing a marked shift, growing by almost 50,000 households in the less accessible neighborhoods, while declining by over 10,000 households in the more accessible ones. This shift isn’t equal across the region, and is heavily driven by the increase of the wealthy population in walkable, job-accessible neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and to a lesser extent Queens and New Jersey’s Hudson County.
Brooklyn is key:
From 2000-2015 over 35% of the total growth of high-income households in the region took place in the accessible neighborhoods of Manhattan and Brooklyn, despite these areas having just 20% of the population of the region..The shift was most prominent in Brooklyn, which saw a loss of 27,202 very low-income households, but Manhattan and Queens also saw declines. Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan all saw declines in households making under $100,000/year, while also seeing increases in those making more
Interestingly, as City Limits reported regarding the report's launch, Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee suggested that required environmental reviews have underplayed displacement, such as risk assessments prepared before "the Bloomberg-era Fourth Avenue rezoning."

She didn't quite get a response from Maria Torres-Springer, the new commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, who instead said that the administration is well aware of gentrification fears.