Surfacing Solutions from NYC’s Fair Housing Stakeholder Group

Last year, the City of New York convened the Fair Housing Stakeholder Group as part of Where We Live NYC, the City’s collaborative planning process to promote fair housing, confront segregation, and take action to advance opportunity for all. The group is made up of more than 150 advocates, service providers, housing developers, researchers, and community leaders.

HOW WE GOT HERE

As part of Where We Live NYC, stakeholders met last spring and summer to discuss how fair housing challenges like segregation and discrimination impact New Yorkers’ lives, respond to initial data analysis, and help identify root causes of fair housing issues in New York City. We shared insights from this initial set of meetings in a blog post available here.

Building on these discussions, the Fair Housing Stakeholder Group reconvened this past fall to suggest specific policy solutions that address the root causes of fair housing challenges — we call this the “Create Phase” since it focuses on idea generation. To facilitate, we invited participants to join small topic-based discussions and brainstorm solutions for fair housing challenges. A full list of these issues and a summary of solutions are included below.

This blog post provides an overview of the framing and solutions suggested by the Fair Housing Stakeholder Group. These recommended solutions will serve as one of many key inputs into the Where We Live NYC process.

Stakeholders discuss their vision for success in the Where We Live NYC process. This exercise allowed us to articulate a collective vision and also surface different, sometimes conflicting perspectives when it comes to the next chapter of fair housing policy in New York City.

DEFINING SUCCESS

Before we dove into specific ideas, each discussion started with an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on their vision for success for Where We Live NYC. This exercise allowed participants to articulate a collective vision and also surface different, sometimes conflicting perspectives.

In thinking about the next chapter of fair housing policy in New York City, stakeholders emphasized the following themes:

  • Choice, power, and self-determination for historically excluded groups
  • Equitable neighborhood amenities and investments that address historic disinvestment and provide access to opportunity
  • A stable home and community for all to thrive
  • More accessible, affordable, and independent living options for people with disabilities in integrated settings
  • Reduced racial disparities in education, wealth, health, justice-involvement, and overall life outcomes that are driven by where people live
  • Diverse and inclusive neighborhoods, free of discrimination

DEFINING NEIGHBORHOODS OF OPPORTUNITY

We also invited stakeholders to articulate their view of what makes a “high opportunity” or desirable neighborhood, building on the framing provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule. Overall, stakeholders defined high opportunity neighborhoods as places where residents are healthy, prosperous, and thriving with access to amenities and resources that empower economic mobility. Stakeholders suggested ways in which we could evaluate the quality of local opportunity — including metrics for educational opportunities, job training and wealth-building opportunities, safe and healthy environments, and transportation access. Stakeholders also defined high opportunity neighborhoods as places with…

  • Cultural sensitivity and high quality of services and resources
  • Civic participation and self-determination for residents — especially for low-income residents, people of color, and people with disabilities
  • Inclusion, accessibility, and freedom from discrimination
  • Diversity and social cohesion

Some stakeholders expressed concern about labeling certain neighborhoods as “high opportunity” because of the potential stigmatization of areas that may be viewed as “low opportunity.” They were also concerned that these definitions could further influence discriminatory investment patterns. Other stakeholders highlighted the need to identify, acknowledge, and correct historic inequities in investment between neighborhoods.

Stakeholders participate in individual and group brainstorms to develop potential strategies to address root causes driving of local fair housing challenges.

SUGGESTING SOLUTIONS

Following these visioning exercises, we gave stakeholders the opportunity to individually and collectively brainstorm potential strategies to address the different root causes driving fair housing issues in New York City. We also met individually with stakeholders who wanted to dive deeper into their suggestions.

Below is a summary of recommendations from the Fair Housing Stakeholder Group organized by the relevant root cause. To see the full list of stakeholders’ ideas, download our complete synthesis document here.

Location and type of affordable and accessible housing in NYC and the region

Stakeholder recommendations included:

  • Policy and code changes to increase the number of accessible apartments created in both the private market and publicly-supported housing.
  • Strategies to increase opportunities for new housing, particularly deeply affordable housing, in amenity-rich areas, high-cost areas, and areas with restrictive zoning or historic districts.
  • Strategies to expedite approval processes for affordable housing, particularly housing that serves people with special needs.
  • Investments to increase access to opportunity in areas with high concentrations of existing publicly-supported housing, such as wrap-around services within affordable housing projects and broad neighborhood investments.

Disparities in public and private investments, services, and amenities across neighborhoods in NYC and the region

Stakeholder recommendations included:

  • Policy shifts to conduct comprehensive community-based planning, capital budgeting, and decision-making through a lens of racial equity.
  • Strategies that better connect low-skilled workers to effective training and financial empowerment programs that lead to career pathways, entrepreneurship, wealth-building, and mobility out of poverty.
  • Ideas to implement a restorative justice approach to engaging with residents around issues of crime and safety.
  • Strategies that target investments in reducing disparities in housing quality for low-income communities of color.

Community opposition to housing and infrastructure investments to accommodate growth in NYC and the region

Stakeholder recommendations included:

  • Campaigns to educate residents on fair housing to address opposition in their neighborhoods.
  • Ideas to improve public participation processes, including more representation by historically marginalized populations in decision-making.
  • Changes in the public review process for projects that promote equity and meet city-wide needs.
  • Strategies that improve the transparency and efficacy of impact analyses, better enforce mitigations, and leverage community benefits.

Challenges to using rental assistance in NYC and in the region, particularly in high-cost areas

Stakeholder recommendations included:

  • Strategies that increase housing options for residents using rental assistance, particularly in amenity-rich areas.
  • Staff training and service design changes to improve the overall experience of using rental assistance.
  • Incentives for landlords to accept rental assistance and strategies to hold landlords accountable for providing quality housing.
  • Ideas to clarify eligibility and application processes for immigrants, mixed-status families, and those with limited English proficiency.

Loss of and displacement from housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers

Stakeholder recommendations included:

  • Strategies to strengthen tenant protections, education on rights and resources, oversight and enforcement, and the preservation of existing rent-stabilized and affordable housing.
  • Policies and programs that support homeowners in financial distress and prevent them from losing their homes.
  • Shifts in land use policies and property tax reforms to prevent speculation and preserve affordability.

Discrimination and the enforcement of fair housing laws

Stakeholder recommendations include:

  • Strategies to increase education, testing, and enforcement of fair housing laws, including better coordination and reporting among housing specialists and case managers — with a particular focus on source-of-income discrimination.
  • Reforms to existing Human Rights Laws to include protections for justice-involved people and those with poor credit history.
  • Policies and programs to support people with disabilities in need of reasonable accommodations.
  • Strategies to hold the private sector more accountable to fair housing compliance, including co-op boards, banks, landlords, architects, and brokers.

Admissions and occupancy restrictions in publicly-supported housing

Stakeholder recommendations included:

  • Policy reforms to increase the number of fully accessible units and service design improvements to support the accessible housing search and application process for people with disabilities, particularly those transitioning out of institutions.
  • Suggestions to enable more flexibility in income requirements, reduce administrative barriers to access, and improve accommodations for caregivers.
  • Suggestions to revisit set-asides and eligibility of housing for transgender individuals, survivors of domestic violence, and other special populations who face intersectional challenges.
  • Advocacy to reform the federal definition of rent burden in affordable housing, build in gradual incentives to benefits programs, and incentivize economic mobility.
  • Strategies to reduce barriers for justice-involved populations to access publicly-supported housing.

The availability, type, accessibility, and reliability of public transportation

Stakeholder recommendations included:

  • Policies that apply an equity framework and prioritize improving transit services and connections in areas not easily served by subways for low-income individuals.
  • Ideas to improve the accessibility of transit and sidewalks for people with auditory, visual, and ambulatory disabilities, and expand overall reliable transit options for people with disabilities.

Location of proficient schools and school assignment policies

Stakeholder recommendations included:

  • Suggestions to develop policy on how new affordable housing connects with school district and zone assignments.
  • Strategies that help shift the narrative of what makes a “good school” to be beyond test scores, and ensure there are high quality schools in each school district.
  • Suggestions to mandate that elementary and middle schools revisit zoning districts and screening policies and develop proactive strategies to promote school diversity and integration.

USING THIS INPUT

We will consider feedback from the Fair Housing Stakeholder Group, insights from more than 60 focus group-style Community Conversations with residents across the city, and data and policy analysis conducted in partnership with more than 30 government agencies to shape goals and strategies for the Where We Live NYC report. The Fair Housing Stakeholder Group will have an opportunity to review and give feedback on a preliminary set of goals and strategies before we release the draft Where We Live NYC report this summer.

Join the conversation! Visit the Where We Live NYC website to share your thoughts, explore preliminary data findings, and download a toolkit to lead thoughtful conversation about fair housing with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, or community groups.

If your organization is interested in joining the Fair Housing Stakeholder Group, please email wherewelivenyc@hpd.nyc.gov.

NYC HPD's mission is to promote the construction and preservation of affordable, high quality housing for families in thriving and diverse neighborhoods.