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City expands access to affordable housing following landmark settlement

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The city has broadened access to affordable housing, overcoming opposition to a policy that reserved such housing for residents in the immediate neighborhood.

The controversial policy, known as community preference, faced scrutiny in a federal case, with opponents contending that it perpetuated racial residential segregation in the city. Plaintiffs argued that this practice limited opportunities for Black and Latino New Yorkers to relocate to areas with quality schools, low crime rates, and well-maintained parks.

Councilwoman Gale Brewer of the Upper West Side shed light on the overwhelming demand for these affordable units, citing an instance where a single building received a staggering 70,000 applicants. This influx, she explained, posed challenges for individuals from neighborhoods like East New York in Brooklyn, hindering their ability to move to more central locations such as Manhattan.

The legal battle, initiated in 2015 against the de Blasio administration, highlighted the defense of community preference as a strategy to garner support from City Council members for extensive housing projects in their respective districts and prevent displacement. NYC Housing Connect, the platform for applying to these housing lotteries, emphasized the positive impact on neighborhood residents, showcasing testimonials like that of a Bronx mother who expressed gratitude for being able to remain in her community.

Under the terms of the settlement, a maximum of 20% of affordable housing units offered through lotteries will be reserved for applicants based on community ties, a provision in effect until April 2029. Post that date, the set-aside percentage decreases to 15%. Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, in an interview on “News All Day,” acknowledged the reduction but highlighted its role in preserving a crucial tool for future urban development initiatives.

The lead plaintiff’s attorney, Craig Gurian, welcomed the shift away from what he termed as “racial turf,” emphasizing a move towards a more inclusive and city-wide housing strategy. Moses Gates, a housing expert with the Regional Plan Association, echoed this sentiment, anticipating the continuity of projects and the ongoing development of affordable housing across the city.

As part of this groundbreaking settlement, the city has agreed to pay $100,000 each to the two Black women who were plaintiffs in the case. This resolution not only marks a departure from the contested community preference policy but also sets a precedent for a more equitable and accessible approach to affordable housing in New York City.

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