Residents worry affordable housing is disappearing

Apartment housing on Hunts Point Avenue.

By Kristina Siriotis

Apartment housing on Hunts Point Avenue.

Hunts Point residents are worried that options for affordable housing are dwindling in their neighborhood, according to conversations on Hunts Point Avenue with more than a dozen residents. However, many residents are open to the idea of having mixed-income housing, which they believe could provide long-term benefits to the neighborhood.

“Some people are working hard, and they still don’t have the money for rent,” said Howard Oree, 55, a drug counselor who lives on Hunts Point Avenue with his wife, Nicki.

Over 32 percent of Hunts Point residents spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent, according to Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York’s most recent data.

Oree said he and his wife struggle to pay $900 per month for their one-bedroom apartment, despite rent assistance from the city. “The money doesn’t match the rent in Hunts Point, and for those on welfare, they can’t catch up and they continue to stay in the system.”

With the special election to fill the vacant 17th District City Council seat that includes Hunts Point coming up on Feb. 23, affordable housing and homelessness will continue to be key issues for the six remaining candidates.

“What’s affordable in some areas of the city is not affordable to the poor in Hunts Point,” said Arnold Lowery, 55, an MTA bus driver who works in Hunts Point.

Some residents linked the homeless population with increasing rent prices, blaming landlords who benefit from generous city subsidies when they push out longterm tenants to replace them with homeless families. “We should have more low-income housing in Hunts Point,” said Jenny McGaney, 34, a childcare provider living in the neighborhood. “There are a lot of homeless people and it’s not easy to get an apartment.” Some also cited high credit score standards and move-in costs for keeping the homeless out of apartments of their own.

Hunts Point residents also noted that some landlords are not maintaining their buildings adequately. “The rent is too high and the quality is not good. There’s rats and roaches,” said Kimo Garcia, 39, a welder from Hunts Point, who says he pays about 85 percent of his income on rent. Garcia suggested that the city could assist landlords by giving them the equipment needed to repair apartment units and stabilize heat during cold months.

“The city should get on the landlords about the heat and fixing up the apartments,” said McGaney, who also said the heat was inadequate heat in her building.

While many residents feel that rent increases are hurting Hunts Point, others feel that mixed-income buildings could make the neighborhood a better place to live. “It brings a different mentality to the area,” said Lowery. He noted that housing should be made affordable for the neighborhood’s poorest, but added, “Hunts Point should not just be a dumping ground for welfare and substance abuse victims.”

Affordable buying options could also bring change to the neighborhood, some believe. “I would love to get a co-op or buy a condo if my building had it,” said Christine Johnson, 51, a substance abuse counselor who has lived in her Hunts Point apartment for eight years. She pays $1,237 for a two-bedroom apartment in a building where the rents are adjusted for income. “I think Hunts Point would be better if rents rise. It would hurt some people if they can’t afford it and they’re displaced, but it would bring a different quality of people to the area.”

Others echoed this sentiment. “It should be more mixed. If there’s too many low-income apartments it will be negative for Hunts Point,” said Edgar Alexander, 36, a pressman who grew up in Hunts Point. Alexander noted that he does think rents are rising. His friend, he said, pays $1,550 for a two-bedroom apartment in the neighborhood.

Oree says that he would love to be able to afford an apartment without government assistance in the near future, and lower rent options could help him do that. “If they’re making changes in Hunts Point, they should help, not hinder, the people in Hunts Point.”

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