Hasidic neighborhood in Williamsburg is big Section 8 beneficiary

NYC received 123,000 vouchers in 2015
May 17, 2016 06:00PM

One of the hottest real estate markets in New York City is also home to the highest concentration of Section 8 vouchers.

A Hasidic neighborhood in South Williamsburg is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the federal subsidy program, according to an analysis by WNYC and the New York Daily News. The analysis found that in 2014, 3,296 voucher holders lived across 12 Yiddish-speaking Census tracts in New York City. On the whole, the city had 123,000 vouchers in 2015, making it the largest concentration of Section 8 recipients in the country.

In the 1990s, Hasidic developers won key zoning variances to convert warehouses and industrial buildings into residences, amid claims the apartments were designated specifically for Hasidic families and only advertised in Yiddish-language newspapers, a violation of Fair Housing Act standards. Critics also claim development has been driven by informal banking and tenants who pay under the table on top of the Section 8 vouchers. In 2012, a prominent rabbi and his brother were accused of defrauding the section 8 program of $220,000 over 15 years.

Others argue that the community is simply trying to make ends meet in an increasingly expensive neighborhood.

“This is not a story of malfeasance,” Samuel Heilman, a Queens college professor who has studied the Hasidic community, told the news team. “This is a story of a community that’s trying to exist in the city at a time when the city has become, and particularly the borough in which they live, extremely expensive.” [WNYC and NYDN]Kathryn Brenzel