Monday, March 19, 2012

Those Beautiful New Town Houses in the Bronx May Really Be Rooming Houses

Yesterday at the housing panel at the Left Forum, one of the panelists reminded us that the construction of thousands of new town houses in the Bronx and East NY was not quite the Affordable housing success story it might look like from the surface. "In a lot of those houses" he said " every floor has been subdivided into three four rented rooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom" His remarks helped make sense of what had previously been a mystery to me, namely how in communities where the per capita family income was less than $25,000 a year you could find enough families to afford the down payment and carrying costs on a town house, especially with Section 8 subsidies being phased out. Now I had the answer. A lot of those town houses, built to be 2 and 3 family residences, had been turned into de facto rooming houses! I had never seen an article about this is any publication, but it made sense of what I was seeing on Bronx streets, hearing about from people who worked in Bronx schools and knew about the Bronx from local community activists. This is what happens when a so called "affordable housing " organizations charge far more for apartments, or co-operatives, than the average resident can pay, when there is a 13 year wait to get into public housing, when few of the jobs available to neighborhood resident pay a living wage, and when significant numbers of residents are forced to rely on the underground economy for income because of their immigration status, or because they have criminal records. It's wonderful to see the South Bronx rebuild, but the reality behind those new constructions may be grimmer than their spanking new exteriors may suggest

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This seems right, given that the income distribution has not changed very much in neighborhoods like Bronx Park South over the past couple of decades, even though many dwelling units were built and targeted for higher-income households there. On the other hand, use as a rooming house might be expected to put extra wear and tear on a building, and the new "affordable homeownership" row houses in BPS still look pretty nice. Do you have any morer detail on this observation?