The challenge of finding affordable housing in the Bronx’s Community Board 8

Antonio Martinez, a resident of Community Board 8, wonders why there is no affordable housing in his community.
Courtesy of Antonio Martinez

The lack of affordable housing isn’t just a problem in the Bronx, but citywide as well.

Antonio Martinez, 23, a resident of Community Board 8, lives with his family and works for the Legal Aid Society in the south Bronx.

Martinez, who is graduating from college this year, would like to find a place of his own in CB8, but said that everything is expensive. So he thought that affordable housing would be a viable option.

Much to his surprise, the neighborhoods of Riverdale and Kingsbridge have no available or upcoming options in the realm of affordable housing.

“I’m just getting the sense affordable housing is not something elected officials want over here,” Martinez said. “It’s not what wealthy people want in Riverdale.”

Martinez said last year Community Board 8 had no affordable housing listings. He conducted research and found Community Board 8 has had only one affordable housing listing, which gave three residents preference.

To make matters worse, last year the NYC Housing Connect posted affordable housing apartments and only 36 out of over 300 at 3470 Fort Independence St., were affordable. It did not give preference to CB8 residents.

He contacted CB8 and it was unaware the property was even built as they did not know why it didn’t receive preference. When he inquired with the community board they stated that as per HPD “the program developer is receiving the tax credit and doesn’t include CB8 preference”.

“This was a slap in the face to working class residents from CB8,” Martinez said. “Furthermore, CB8 also has a number of Mitchell Lama buildings but none of them have been open for lotteries in years and these lotteries do not prioritize area residents anyways.”

“The issue seems to be associated with the fact many people associate CB8 with the affluent,” Martinez added. “However, there are many working class people like myself who are gratified with the work we do professionally but are by no means wealthy. I come across these individuals and families on public transportation, the gym and the supermarket. Some of these people work two jobs just to reside in the area we love.”

Martinez has emailed the community board and elected officials on the local, state and federal level about this issue.

“I know there are some who might suggest we move out of CB8 not realizing that applying for affordable housing elsewhere is hard as well,” he commented. “Apartments in other community boards are hard to obtain because the residents of that area take majority of the apartments with the preference they’re entitled to. It would nice if the city developed CB8 as well.”

Elected officials Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Senator Alessandra Biaggi share Martinez’s concerns about the lack of affordable housing. Dinowitz explained there are 12 NYCHA buildings, three HUD and several Mitchell Lama in Community Board 8.

But the officials noted what is affordable for one person is not for another. Dinowitz added there were not as many available lots for development compared to the south Bronx. In order to build a large building for affordable housing in somewhere like Kingsbridge Heights, you’d have to basically tear down houses and maybe even combine lots.

“Is there enough affordable housing?” he said. “There are a lot of people who can’t afford to live in CB8. Housing costs are becoming prohibitive for a lot of people.”

Biaggi noted that now, more than ever the city and state needs affordable housing. As the coronavirus has cost people jobs and it could also lead people to relocate in the city or out of it.

She said if more affordable housing is created it can only benefit the Bronx and the city. It should not just be the wealthy that can live anywhere they want, she said.

“There are a lot of people who are hurting right now,” Biaggi said. “We need to be investing in opportunities to have access for communities of color.”

HPD and HDC are the two agencies that assist with financing for affordable housing projects in the city.

Community Board 8 has several zoning districts that preserve lower density areas and would not be feasible for affordable housing developments, such as in Northern Riverdale and Fieldston. However, there are still areas within the district that could allow mid-size affordable housing projects to be built.

Under this administration about 60,000 affordable home units have been built or preserved throughout the Bronx, more than any other borough with about 600 units in Community Board 8.

HPD relies on public and private partnerships to bring affordable housing to New Yorkers, of which the availability of city-owned land and cost of land play a role.

Under the law, the city sets affordability targets for developers of residential housing in areas zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which includes areas rezoned as part of city neighborhood plan or private rezoning applications. HPD also sets affordability requirements for projects built on city-owned land.

This community does not have any neighborhood rezoning areas under this administration and there is a limited amount of city owned land compared to other parts of the Bronx.

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