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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Ildefonso, Ph.D.

A New Map for Tackling New York’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

There are few things that unite New Yorkers more than lamenting about the state’s skyrocketing housing costs. Yet, even though the demand for affordable housing is as high as ever, housing construction remains at a frustrating snail-pace, especially when compared to other states. And when affordable housing is built, it is concentrated in the same low-income neighborhoods, which creates even more economic and racial segregation.

Why is it so tough to get new housing built?

Some reasons, include:

  1. Zoning and Land Use Regulations: Exclusionary zoning originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a means to enforce racial segregation. These regulations included stipulations about lot sizes, building types, and other characteristics that effectively excluded housing options that would be accessible to lower-income populations, who were disproportionately people of color.

  2. Community Opposition: Even though many middle-class earners report that they are struggling to keep up with their housing costs, many also oppose affordable housing developments due to concerns about the effect they will have on their property values.

  3. Funding and Incentives: Government programs and incentives for affordable housing development are often structured in ways that make it easier to build in low-income areas.

The newly released Long Island Zoning Atlas
The newly released Long Island Zoning Atlas

The Long Island Zoning Atlas shows that housing construction in the region is limited by exclusionary zoning. The yellow areas, which cover most of the map, represent places that only allow for the construction of single-family homes and no other types of housing, such a multi-family homes or apartment buildings.

These policies and practices have made it extremely difficult to secure safe, affordable and dignified housing for New Yorkers. 

That’s why I’ve spent the past year working with ERASE Racism, a racial justice nonprofit, to create the Affordable and Inclusive Housing Tool (AIHT). The comprehensive mapping tool is designed to help housing advocates and developers locate prime areas for affordable housing to encourage its development throughout the State.

A strategic tool for housing advocates & developers

Users of the mapping tool can:

  1. Identify high-opportunity areas (prime locations for affordable housing) based on two custom opportunity indices

  2. Retrieve information on existing affordable housing to avoid placing housing in the same neighborhoods. 

  3. Measure racial segregation to promote housing that will create more racially inclusive neighborhoods. 

The AIHT can be the first step in helping to ensure that new affordable housing is developed in all areas of New York, helping to increase the housing supply and create more inclusive communities.

We launched the tool last week, and I’m excited to report that it’s been gaining traction in the media and has already received 11,618 visitors! I’ll be giving a couple of public demonstrations of the AIHT in the coming weeks. Please, reach out if you would like to attend.

Clipping from Newsday
A Dec 1st clipping from Newsday, Long Island's regional newspaper

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