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De Blasio Administration Releases Where We Live NYC, A Blueprint for the Future of Fair Housing

January 7, 2020

New Fair Housing Litigation Unit will use “secret shoppers” to test the housing market for discrimination and hold bad actors accountable

NEW YORK, NY – Today, the de Blasio Administration released the Where We Live NYC Draft Plan for public review. Where We Live NYC is the City’s comprehensive plan to promote fair housing and take action to advance opportunity for all New Yorkers. Intentional policies and practices perpetuated segregation and inequity across the country and in our city, and it will take concerted effort from all levels of government, working with our partners in the private and non-profit sectors, to undo that legacy.

“As the Trump Administration rolls back protections against housing discrimination, we are stepping up to ensure that the doors of opportunity are open to every New Yorker and those who discriminate are held accountable,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Across the country, Americans are living with the legacy of segregation. In New York City, we’re charting a path forward to continue to make New York the fairest big city in America.”

"We live in the greatest city in the world, and that gives us a moral obligation to uplift and empower all New Yorkers and lead the nation in addressing structural racism and housing discrimination," said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. "The Where We Live NYC plan is essential to building on our work to make the City fairer and more just, and I look forward to meeting with New Yorkers to ensure their stories shape the final plan, and future housing policies."

New Yorkers are increasingly living in neighborhoods that are more racially and economically diverse, and this Administration has been focused on creating a fairer city for all by expanding opportunity and strengthening neighborhoods. The de Blasio Administration has made significant progress in implementing inclusive policies and making investments that serve all New Yorkers, reduce existing inequities, and secure a sustainable future including:

  • Creating 44,380 new affordable homes and preserving the affordability of another 92,532 homes through the most ambitious affordable housing plan in the city’s history, with tens of thousands more units on the way
  • Securing one of the nation’s most demanding Mandatory Inclusionary Housing programs, ensuring that in every neighborhood, whenever housing is built through zoning changes, between 20 and 30% of that housing is permanently affordable
  • Enacting legislation to guarantee free legal assistance to every low income tenant facing eviction, and providing legal assistance to more than 100,000 households
  • Expanding neighborhood policing to every neighborhood in New York City, contributing to a historic low crime rate
  • Strengthening worker protections and benefits, from paid family and sick leave requirements to more predictable scheduling for fast food and retail workers
  • Launching Pre-K For All in all five boroughs
  • Establishing the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants to ensure New Yorkers know their rights and can access help to fight back against harassment

The share of New Yorkers living in the most segregated neighborhoods has steadily decreased, with the share of New Yorkers living in the least diverse neighborhoods in New York City – where a single racial or ethnic group is predominant –decreasing from 27% of New Yorkers in 1990 to 19% in 2000 and to 9% in 2012-2016. Additionally, the concentration of poverty across the city’s neighborhoods has also decreased. The share of census tracts with more than 40% of New Yorkers living in poverty has dropped from 13% in 1990 to 8% in 2012-2016.

The Where We Live NYC Draft Plan outlines key goals and strategies to address New York City’s fair housing challenges. The plan analyzes the state of fair housing in New York City today and lays out an action plan for the next five years. New Yorkers can now visit the Where We Live NYC website to read the plan and offer feedback to shape the final report. Both HPD and NYCHA worked with more than 30 government partners to evaluate existing policies and initiatives in order to design new, impactful policy solutions.

The Where We Live NYC Draft Plan includes the following key goals and strategies:

  • Expand resources to combat persistent housing discrimination, including a new dedicated unit to test for and pursue proactive cases agasint housing discrimination and new protections for justice-involved New Yorkers and New Yorkers who use housing vouchers.
  • Support housing development throughout the city and region, by expediting the creation of more affordable housing for low-income households and exploring zoning, land use, and other regulatory actions that will promote growth more broadly across the five boroughs.
  • Preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement of long-standing residents, through improving the quality of the city’s existing housing stock, particularly the 170,000 homes managed by NYCHA and expanding resources that protect tenants and homeowners against the threats of harassment, eviction, fraud, and scams.
  • Empower New Yorkers who use housing vouchers with more choice, by expanding the number of homes available to New Yorkers who receive rental assistance benefits and improving voucher holders’ and landlords’ experiences with the City.
  • Create more independent and integrated living options for people with disabilities, by leveraging the resources of the healthcare sector and expanding programs that assist people with disabilities obtain renovations to accommodate their physical needs.
  • Make equitable investments and change policies to support neighborhoods suffering from historic disinvestment through thoughtful decision-making and community engagement. The City will invest in increased wealth-building opportunities, improved public transit, and expanded diversity in public schools, among other initiatives.

To root out discrimination in the housing market, the City is launching the Fair Housing Litigation Unit to bring cases against owners and brokers who discriminate based on race, disability and source of income. This unit will be comprised of researchers, lawyers, and market testers who will go into the community as “secret shoppers” and identify discriminatory practices. The Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants will closely track the work of this unit to insure it is delivering for New Yorkers. The Fair Housing Litigation Unit will:  

  • Use data analysis and targeting to identity portfolios where the owner or broker is discriminating based on race, disability or source of income.
  • Bring affirmative litigation cases to court to hold bad actors accountable
  • Build new case law to deepen efforts to further fair housing
  • Educate brokers and owners on the consequences of discrimination

This Where We Live NYC Draft Plan was created through an inclusive, collaborative, and comprehensive effort to better understand fair housing challenges. The City worked with partners to learn directly from more than 700 residents across the five boroughs through 62 focus-group-style conversations in 15 different languages. The City also worked with a Fair Housing Stakeholder Group comprising of more than 150 community-based organizations, researchers, and policy advocates. New Yorkers were also asked to participate by sharing input on the Where We Live NYC website, participating in events, and hosting a conversation in their own community.

The City will also be hosting a listening tour across the city to continue the extensive collaborative public engagement that has driven Where We Live NYC’s two-year planning process. The tour will feature 3-4 day- exhibit installations that outline the process and draft plan. Residents will have a chance to learn and discuss the history of fair housing, explore data on diversity and opportunity in New York City, and share feedback on the strategies outlined in the draft plan to address discrimination, segregation, and equity in opportunity.

To launch the draft review process, the City will host a Where We Live NYC Listening Tour Opening Reception on January 8, 2020 at the Abrons Art Center in Manhattan, where participants can meet with City representatives to ask questions, share feedback, and experience an interactive Where We Live NYC exhibit.

The City will also be holding a public hearing on February 6, 2020 where members of the public can provide formal, on-the-record comment on the draft. The hearing will be held from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in the City Planning Commission Hearing Room, Lower Concourse, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.   

For more information on the process, visit the Where We Live NYC website.

“Where We Live NYC is a sweeping fair housing plan that will guide the City’s bold and transformative efforts to dismantle the legacy of segregation and discrimination that stand in the way of opportunity for many people in our communities.  Throughout this process we’ve worked hand in hand with New Yorkers to make sure that their voices were heard, and we’re releasing this draft to fine tune what we’ve done so far, solidifying our next steps to make this city a more fair and just place to live for everyone,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “I thank our many partners across the City and the 150 organizations that participated in our stakeholder group that have helped us reach this milestone. We look forward to continuing the conversation and building on our work to make this city better.”

“Where We Live addresses the real challenges NYCHA and Section 8 residents face in gaining access to housing and opportunity. The issues that contribute to housing discrimination and segregation are systemic and impact the lives of countless New Yorkers. To tackle them, we need to enlist more community partners; continue leveraging the impact of NYCHA programs like PACT and REES; and expand funding to strengthen enforcement of NYC’s Fair Housing laws that protect the rights of many low- and moderate-income New Yorkers,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Gregory Russ.  

“Our history teaches us that the exclusion of Black Americans from neighborhoods and housing opportunity was purposeful. The only way to fight back and right those wrongs is to face this head on. That’s why this report is so essential and the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants will work tirelessly to insure equitable opportunity and access to housing stability,” said Jackie Bray, Director of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants.

“As we fight a citywide affordability crisis and address the challenge of homelessness, decades in the making, connecting New Yorkers in need to housing they can afford is our number one priority,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks. “This announcement builds on our progress at DSS-DHS-HRA helping more than 133,000 New Yorkers secure permanent housing through our Social Services programs and implementing a first-of-its-kind dedicated unit at DSS to combat Source of Income discrimination. Through these proactive programs and strategies—helping New Yorkers find, secure, and afford stable housing, while holding bad landlords accountable—we are making it easier for those individuals and families experiencing homelessness to open doors of opportunity in order to get back on their feet—and these new initiatives will take that work even further.”

“The Equity and Excellence for All agenda has delivered real, meaningful progress for communities across this city—graduation rates are up, dropout rates are down, and Pre-K for All is closing the achievement gap,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “We know our schools are stronger when they reflect the diversity of our city and I applaud the Mayor for such a bold plan to continue to tackle inequality in the years to come.”

“Creating an inclusive housing plan that meets the needs of everyone takes extensive planning,” said Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. “We have made adaptable units that can meet the requirements of people with various disabilities, provided financial planning resources to make housing more attainable and stepped up our level of enforcement to prevent housing discrimination. We are proud of the progress we have made in the Where We Live plan and look forward to continuing to include the disability community in this important conversation.” 

“As New Yorkers, we pride ourselves on the diversity of our city – but also know that unacceptable levels of inequity remain. This Administration has made great strides in righting the wrongs of the past, including the adoption of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. Where We Live promotes this momentum, and I look forward to continuing to use zoning to help us build inclusion and equity for all New Yorkers,” said Marisa Lago, Director the Department of City Planning and Chair of the City Planning Commission.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been making impressive strides in affirmatively furthering fair housing and improving the condition and availability of housing in New York City,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of Housing and Buildings Committee. “I commend HPD for their inclusive and collaborative approach in developing the Where We Live NYC plan, ensuring the plan is equipped to tackle New York City’s unique housing needs. We need clear-eyed and bold plans like this one to address the serious housing crisis we are faced with.”

"Access to affordable, safe and accessible housing remains a defining challenge for our city. Unfair housing practices have aided and abetted New York's ongoing homelessness and affordable housing crisis, and one cannot be solved without addressing the other. I commend HPD for tackling the question of fair housing from several critical angles and will do everything in my power to support the objective of fair housing for all," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

"A comprehensive fair housing strategy is key to keeping New York City vibrant and diverse," said Council Member Ben Kallos."We must focus on helping historically undeserved neighborhoods and fighting housing discrimination wherever it creeps up. It does not matter whether it is with new housing or with preserved housing, the goal must be to keep it fair and accessible to as many New Yorkers as possible. Thank you to the Housing Preservation Department for putting together 'Where We live NYC' and working to fight discrimination with a thoughtful proactive plan."

“Despite being one of the most progressive cities in the nation, there is still significant work that needs to be done to ensure fair housing for all New Yorkers. For years, housing discrimination based on race, socio- economic status and zip code prevented residents from renting or buying a home and further segregated neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. That is why I applaud HPD and the administration for establishing goals that work toward greater investment in our communities and that will further dismantle obstacles to fair housing for future generations,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson.

 “As James Baldwin said, 'Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.' It's not easy to take an honest look at the ways segregation scars our city, but it is the only way to begin building a city of more genuine and equal opportunity. So when the Trump Administration cynically turned its back on fair housing, I'm glad that New York City stepped forward. I look forward to working with the City to put the fair housing strategies of Where We Live NYC into action. The Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning is a great first opportunity," said Council Member Brad Lander. 

 “The deep-rooted historical injustices that gave rise to housing discrimination continue to have lasting impacts on marginalized communities to this day, and we need to do everything in our power to put an end to this cycle of inequality. While New York City has some of the toughest laws in the books, we must go further. I thank the Mayor and HPD for prioritizing proactive solutions through this report, and look forward to working with our tenant leaders and housing advocates to protect our City's most vulnerable residents," said Council Member Margaret Chin.

“The de Blasio administration’s decision to move ahead with a fair housing assessment demonstrates our City’s commitment to acknowledging that large swaths of New York City are deeply segregated due to years of unjust and racist housing policy,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “Acknowledging the impact that predatory policies like red lining have had on communities of color is a starting point towards making housing fair and equitable in New York City. While I am excited by the recommendations outlined in the Where We Live NYC report, they will only be able to successfully confront segregation and promote inclusionary housing if they are executed correctly. I will be keeping my eye on these recommendations and holding the administration accountable in aggressively implementing measures to further equity in New York City’s housing trends."

"At a time when the federal government is abdicating its enforcement of fair housing regulations, New York City is stepping up to fill the gap. Housing segregation remains one of our most pervasive challenges, and the City's Where We Live initiative will help us to better understand and address its causes and impacts," said Jolie Milstein, President and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH). "We applaud Mayor de Blasio and HPD for demonstrating leadership on an initiative that will help create new opportunities for all New Yorkers, regardless of where they live."

“Where We Live sets a new standard for NYC’s planning and policymaking processes. The Where We Live process serves as a model for how New York City residents, government agencies, and stakeholders can collaborate to tackle the city’s most pressing challenges,” said Executive Director of the Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC) Jessica Katz.

“Through Where We Live NYC, AAFE engaged our diverse multilingual community members in Manhattan and Queens for meaningful insights on the impact of neighborhood segregation and discrimination,” said Jennifer Sun and Thomas Yu, co-executive directors of Asian Americans for Equality. “Chinese speaking seniors, Flushing youth and Latinx tenants citywide told us how gentrification, harassment from landlords and historic disinvestment has created inequality in our neighborhoods. The city made a real commitment to community engagement through this process. Now, working collaboratively, we must ensure that it does not end there - and that Where We Live NYC leads to a more equitable city for all New Yorkers.”

“Advancing racial justice and promoting fair and equitable housing are what every resident of New York City deserves," said Christie Peale, Executive Director/CEO of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. "We commend the Mayor for his leadership in developing such a ground-up, thoughtful plan in partnership with communities and residents across New York. We look forward to being a part of the solution to further desegregating our city and reducing the racial wealth gap through affordable homeownership.”

“Preserving and expanding fair and affordable housing is key to ensuring older New Yorkers can age with dignity and independence in their own homes and neighborhoods. AARP New York was pleased to work with NYC Housing Preservation & Development to help complete the ‘Where We Live NYC’ Draft Plan, and we’ll continue working to ensure this blueprint builds on the momentum generated by the city’s effective affordable housing and Right to Counsel initiatives and last year’s landmark reforms to the state’s rent laws,” said AARP New York State President Leo Asen. “Housing costs have long been a major concern for city Gen Xers and Boomers; more than seven of every 10 respondents to a 2016 Siena College/AARP survey said housing costs have a serious impact on their financial condition and nearly nine of 10 called the availability of affordable housing a significant problem.”

"For the 23,000 members of Make the Road New York, having a safe and dignified home is a top priority." said Jose Lopez, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York. "For this reason, we partnered with #WhereWeLiveNYC, to ensure recommendations issued to combat discrimination, facilitate equitable housing development, and prevent displacement came from renters and community stakeholders dedicated to strengthening the fabric of their neighborhoods. We look forward to reviewing the draft plan and highlighting actionable steps the city can take to promote fair housing."

"Truly transformative policy is driven by the people. Where We Live NYC was driven by community-based organizations throughout the five boroughs - neighborhood leaders who work with the people most impacted by segregation and discrimination. Hester Street was thrilled to support the CBOs at the heart of this effort and excited about what this kind of participatory policy making can mean for the future of an equitable city. Hats off to HPD for working in true collaboration with NYC communities," said Betsy MacLean, Co-Executive Director, Hester Street.

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