The Real Deal New York

East Harlem could lose thousands of affordable units, study reveals

RPA calls for land trusts to preserve housing
By David Jones | August 29, 2012 05:30PM

East Harlem will lose thousands of affordable housing units by the year 2040, as one-third of the 40,500 subsidized units in the community are scheduled to transition to market-rate rents, a new study shows. The report, published by the Regional Plan Association warns that thousands of East Harlem families could be displaced over the next three decades if nothing is done.

The association is recommending the establishment of community land trusts, under which existing homes would be transferred to non-profit corporations; that would allow residents to control the properties under 99-year lease agreements.

“We’ve seen a change in the demographics of the southern section of East Harlem,” said Nicolas Ronderos, economic and community development director at the RPA, who authored the report.

The report, undertaken with Community Board 11, which includes most of East and Central Harlem, was developed in response to concerns about the potential impact of the Second Avenue Subway construction, which may open up the neighborhood to additional gentrification, Ronderos said.

Using multiple sources of affordable housing data, RPA estimates that East Harlem has 9,900 rent-stabilized units, 14,700 public housing units and 15,900 other forms of subsidized housing. The data was culled from the city Rent Guidelines Board, the New York City Housing Authority and the SHIP database at New York University’s Furman Center, which studies housing policy.

According to the report, 2,600 affordable units, or 6.5 percent of the neighborhood’s existing stock, are expected to convert to market rate by the year 2020, while a third of the 40,500 units in East Harlem will convert to market rate by the year 2040.

The report identifies specific buildings that will be impacted by this trend, including Riverton Square, located between 135 and 138th Streets, and bordered by the FDR Drive and Fifth Avenue, which has more than 900 rent-stabilized units.

Other complexes that would be affected include the Villa Hermosa Apartments, at 10 East 108th Street, and the Lakeview Apartments, at 4 East 107th Street, which have a combined 700 apartments.

As The Real Deal has previously reported, a number of East Harlem apartment complexes have been sold or put up for sale as developers move to extricate themselves from the economic downturn. A number of these properties have struggled as developers failed in their aggressive plans to convert rent-regulated apartments to market rates.