My Statement On The Lawsuit Against NYC’s 50% Community Preference Policy for Affordable Housing

My Statement On The Lawsuit Against NYC’s 50% Community Preference Policy for Affordable Housing

As a strong supporter of fair housing and a more inclusive city, I believe NYC’s policy of 50% community preference for affordable housing is an important tool in our efforts to create diverse affordable housing and fight segregation.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve helped lead campaigns for mandatory inclusionary zoning to require affordable units where we build market-rate ones, for the School Diversity Accountability Act to identify and confront segregation in our schools, for a stronger ban on racial and bias-based profiling by the NYPD, and for a renewed NYC Human Rights Commission with a robust testing and investigation program to combat discrimination in housing and employment.

In many of those efforts, the Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York has been a valuable ally. But I strongly disagree with their lawsuit against the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s community preference policy, in which 50% of the units in new affordable housing lotteries are reserved for residents of the local community board, with the other 50% going to applicants from the rest of the city.

The community-preference policy helps long-time residents of gentrifying neighborhoods have a better chance to stay in their communities as rents rise – an essential element of bringing fairness to NYC’s housing efforts.

In many cases, housing developed through HPD’s programs, with the 50/50 approach, is the most diverse and inclusive in the neighborhood: far less segregated than the market-rate or NYCHA/public housing nearby.

The policy also helps build community support for new affordable housing, which is essential in siting efforts, especially where there is resistance to any new development (whether affordable or market-rate), out of concern over strained infrastructure or tall buildings. Despite those concerns, NYC sees less NIMBY opposition to low-income housing than many other places, and I believe the community preference is one meaningful reason why. Eliminating that policy may make it harder to site affordable housing, and thus achieve precisely the opposite of the lawsuit’s stated goal of inclusion.

We do have a very real problem of segregation in New York City, one we too often ignore. We must do more to fight it, through inclusionary affordable housing, strengthening NYC’s Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Law, investigating and prosecuting those who steer and discriminate, pro-diversity admissions policies in our schools, ongoing efforts to combat discriminatory policing, and much more. But this lawsuit is not the right way to get there, and may in fact push us in the opposite direction.


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