Due to the affordability crisis in NYC, more attention is usually given to affordability of housing than to quality of housing. However, there are several recent initiatives that aim to improve or maintain housing quality in NYC, and these may have contributed to change both at the topic and indicator level.
Several new developments related to housing health hazards aim to improve issues related to heat/hot water and vermin for all New Yorkers, and, if such issues disproportionately impact low-income households, could contribute to change in income and heat/hot water and income and vermin infestation. Regarding the former, a bill was introduced by Councilmember Ritchie Torres in December 2016 that would require the owners of buildings with multiple units to install devices that automatically report and record hourly temperatures, which would keep landlords accountable and could potentially have the effect of reducing heat issues for tenants.
Although income and vermin infestation saw a negative change in score this year, reported problems with vermin decreased overall. There are several programs directly or indirectly targeting vermin which, if continued, could contribute to continued reductions in reported cases and potentially decreased disparities. DOHMH’s Rodent Reservoir Analysis program, in effect since 2014, maps out areas with the most rat issues so the City can be more targeted in its efforts. In 2015, the City announced an increase of more than 700% in funding for the program – from $400,000 to $2.9 million. Additionally, a death in spring 2017 due to Leptospirosis (a disease caused by rat urine) has brought vermin infestations into the spotlight, bringing renewed public attention to this issue. Among the changes currently under consideration is the Asthma-Free Homes bill, originally introduced in 2014 and currently under review with the City Council Health Committee, would require landlords to manage vermin and mold in a timely manner and would penalize those who do not.
There are also several new housing maintenance initiatives that may play a role in improving housing quality for low-income New Yorkers and as a result, could contribute to reduced disparities in income and vermin infestation if continued. For example, in 2016 DOHMH and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) launched Healthy Homes Training, a program that trains architects, developers, property owners, and general contractors in healthy building practices for HPD-financed affordable housing in terms of integrated pest management, smoke free housing, and active design. In May 2016, HPD released a set of design guidelines for new affordable housing construction, which could improve the quality of future housing stock rented to low-income New Yorkers and reduce the likelihood of homes falling into disrepair or hazardous conditions. Also in 2016, the City replaced 49 roofs in public housing developments in efforts to reduce tenants’ exposure to pests and mold.
In another effort to improve housing quality, in May 2017, HPD, the NYC Housing Development Corporation, and NYS Homes and Community Renewal partnered with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) NYC to release a tool called the Integrated Physical Needs Assessment to evaluate multifamily properties according to health, energy, and physical quality. This new tool combines separate existing tools for evaluating energy use and housing conditions in order to make housing assessments more efficient and cost-effective for property owners, which could make it more likely that future building repair needs will be addressed in a timely manner.
Finally, the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP) was launched in 2014 with the express goal of improving safety in and around 15 NYCHA housing developments. Work conducted under MAP has included addressing physical conditions, engaging communities, and expanding programming and workforce development. The City is monitoring both crime and a number of specific indicators, and to date has noted decreased crime in the targeted developments. As this work continues, it may contribute to increased positive change in public housing and murder.