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The Cost of Living

The Cost of Living
The Bloomberg Administration has made affordable housing a top priority through a plan (pdf) to create 165,000 units over the next seven years at a cost of $7.5 billion. But what does affordable housing mean in a city where the average apartment sells for a million dollars, and how specifically has the city been going about creating these units and implemening its plan?

NEW YORK VOICES focuses on one of the city's affordable housing programs known as 50-30-20 (pdf), in which developers are given financial incentives to offer both rent-reduced and market-rate apartments within the same building. In these mixed-income buildings, 50% of the apartments rent for the market rate, 30% of the rents are adjusted for middle income tenants, while 20% are reduced even further for low-income tenants.

The first project built under the 50-30-20 program is called the Aspen, which is located in East Harlem. Residents' reasons for moving to the Aspen -- and their experiences after moving in -- vary widely. Judith occupies one of the building's middle-income units with her family. She sees herself as part of the "middle-class squeeze" -- she and her family are neither wealthy enough to afford most Manhattan real estate nor poor enough to qualify for most subsized housing -- and she feels lucky to have one of the city's affordable units for middle income-tentants. But she's not crazy about East Harlem, and wishes she and her family could live in a different neighborhood. Elaine, however, pays market rent for her apartment and chose the Aspen because she felt she got more for her money than she would have in other neighborhoods. Rosemary got one of the Aspen's low-income units, and says the building's a safer environment than other low-income buildings.

The Cost of Living
The Aspen's low- and middle-income units were distributed through a lottery system, and demand was high, with over 5,000 applications received for the building's 108 rent-reduced units. Lynn, a Harlem native, has applied to over 50 housing lotteries, but unlike Judith and Rosemary, she wasn't able to find affordable housing in New York City. She had to cross the river to find affordable, decent housing, and is now living in Jersey City.

In an interview with Rafael Pi Roman, Shaun Donovan, the city's commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, discusses what housing options are available to people like Lynn, Judith, and Rosemary. He discusses the philosophy behind the city's affordable housing program, and defends the idea of giving public subsidies to upper middle class families.

What is the city's housing market like for most middle and upper-income New Yorkers? In the closing piece, Paul Purcell, a real estate consultant, and Dean Feldman, a real estate broker, explain the harsh realities of home ownership in Manhattan.

(first aired 1/27/06)
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The Aspen: A luxury apartment building in East Harlem offers rent-reduced and market-rate apartments under one roof.
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View this storyInterview: Shaun Donovan: New York's housing commissioner discusses the city's affordable housing plan.
To Live and Buy in the City: The harsh realities of home ownership in Manhattan.View this story
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