Where We Live NYC, an initiative of the City of New York focused on expanding housing opportunities for low-income and minority residents, including people with disabilities, released its final housing plan for the city this month. The plan, a culmination of a two-year inclusive and comprehensive process, identifies goals, strategies, and actions that the city can take to advance fair housing over the next five years.
Where We Live NYC is spearheaded by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) in partnership with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Several additional government agencies and community-based partners, all working collaboratively, are focused on confronting segregation, fighting discrimination, and taking action to advance opportunities for populations that have historically been discriminated against. This entails expanding housing options and providing related opportunities, such as the ability to live in high performing school districts.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA), passed into law in 1968, protects several classes of individuals from discrimination when renting, buying, or financing a home, including people with disabilities, while New York State and the New York City Human Rights Law provide additional protections based on factors such as age and citizenship. The FHA, through a 2015 federal ruling, requires cities to “affirmatively further fair housing,” which was the inspiration behind the creation of Where We Live NYC.
Where We Live NYC plan and process
Where We Live NYC, which kicked off in the spring of 2018, had a two-year timeline, and released its final plan in October in response to community feedback. The process was broken down into Learn, Create, and Finalize phases.
The Learn phase ran from spring through fall of 2018, with the objective of understanding existing conditions and root causes that result in a lack of housing options. A stakeholder group was created consisting of 13 community-based organizations, including Independence Care System (ICS), Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID) and the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY (CIDNY). Six “roundtable” meetings were held to share and capture expert insight, where ICS members shared insight from the perspective of people with disabilities. In addition, dozens of community conversation sessions, covering all five boroughs and consisting of residents of various protected classes, took place.
Based on captured insights, top contributing factors to housing discrimination, segregation, and lack of opportunities were identified and placed into nine categories:
• The location and type of affordable and accessible housing
• Loss of and displacement from affordable housing
• Community opposition to new projects, including those related to housing and infrastructure
• Challenges to using housing vouchers—particularly in high-cost areas
• Admission and occupancy restrictions
• Discrimination and enforcement that result from gaps in protections
• Disparities in public and private investment services and amenities across neighborhoods
• Accessibility and reliability of public transportation
• Location of proficient schools and school assignment policies
Where We Live NYC’s Create and Finalize phases
The Create phase ran from late 2018 into 2019, where stakeholder groups reconvened in new roundtable discussions to develop goals and strategies leading to policy solutions for each of the top contributing factors. The effort was strengthened through data analysis headed by various city agencies.
The Finalize phase took place in 2019, with Where We Live NYC publicly sharing the initial policy framework, receiving feedback, and then submitting the final version that fall.
Where We Live NYC final plan
New additions in the plan include new analyses, new metrics for measuring success, and more concrete and specific actions that the city will undertake over the next five years.
The city engaged hundreds of residents, over 150 community-based and advocacy organizations, and dozens of governmental agencies to discuss difficult fair housing issues, including persistent discrimination in the housing market, segregation in neighborhoods and schools, and unequal access to amenities and resources on the basis of race, disability, and other characteristics protected by fair housing laws.
The final report concluded that there are six goals that the city must address through strategy and action. They include:
• Combat persistent, complex discrimination with expanded resources and protections
• Facilitate equitable housing development in New York City and the region
• Preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement of long-standing residents
• Enable more effective use of rental assistance benefits, especially in amenity-rich areas
• Create more independent and integrated living options for people with disabilities
• Make equitable investments to address the neighborhood-based legacy of discrimination, segregation, and concentrated poverty
“The challenges the fair housing plan aims to address are significant and will not be fixed quickly, but with focus and cooperation across governmental and non-governmental partners, significant progress can and will be made over the next five years,” the report reads. Read the final report here.