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The city has released an ambitious new plan to keep Bed-Stuy’s longest-standing residents and homeowners in their homes — with a focus on protecting the neighborhood’s declining Black population.
The Bedford-Stuyvesant Housing Plan was released Friday by New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). It aims to create more affordable housing, support locals with finances and legal information, improve housing conditions and crack down on predatory behavior around Bed-Stuy property sales.
The plan has been in development since Jan. 2019, with the help of elected officials, community leaders and residents, and it sets out five specific goals the city has identified to slow gentrification.
HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll said the plan builds on Bed-Stuy’s rich history at the forefront of the community development movement, with “local leaders and residents working together to protect their neighborhood from the forces of racism and economic instability.”
New affordable housing
One of the goals is to develop new affordable housing projects on vacant, city-owned land in Bed-Stuy — and the department is contracting out to business owners who need it the most.
Under City requirements released last week, a Women or Minority Owned Business Enterprise or non-profit partner must hold a minimum 25 percent ownership stake in those projects, and in any future affordable housing project awarded on public land.
The city is starting by taking proposals to develop 280 new affordable apartments on two sites on Fulton Street.
In response to community feedback, the sites’ development plans must promote wellness through design and programming that promotes healthy eating, physical exercise and holistic healing.
Cracking down on predatory behavior
The plan also points out that Bed-Stuy is an area where predatory behavior is driving rapid gentrification.
The HPD is specifically proposing launching a Bed-Stuy Homeowner Help Desk where residents can get housing, financial and legal counseling, including scam prevention, financial assistance and potentially foreclosure intervention.
Bed-Stuy experienced some of the highest rates of foreclosure following the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008. After the crisis, investors who had picked up Bed-Stuy properties in foreclosure started renovating, making homes unaffordable to long-standing, lower-income residents of color.
Brownstones have become unaffordable for the average Bed-Stuy resident, and the neighborhood has a low rate of construction of new affordable housing. According to the census, between 2000 and 2017 the Black population of Bed-Stuy decreased by 27%, while the white population grew by about the same amount.
Sub-prime mortgages are still being offered to Black Bed-Stuy residents, putting them at greater risk of foreclosing, HPD said. Plus newer homeowners are making more money from renting their places on Airbnb, decreasing the housing stock for locals looking for a home.
Meanwhile senior homeowners are being aggressively solicited to sell and targeted for deed scams.
Education and healthy homes
As part of the new plan, the city is also looking to educate and mobilize the community against housing speculation and illegal housing-related activities like short-term rentals.
The HPD will partner with community leaders to get information out about estate planning, deed theft, poor lending practices and blocking the neighborhood from predatory buyers. It will also seek to educate residents on tenant rights and homeowner responsibilities.
Finally, the plan puts healthy homes at the center of Bed-Stuy’s ability to weather the economic downturn of the pandemic.
“Housing quality is a social determinant of health, and poor housing quality can lead to underlying conditions such as asthma and psychological stress, both of which jeopardized Bed-Stuy and other communities of color during the COVID-19 pandemic,” HPD said.
As a result, it plans to renovate about 700 Bed-Stuy NYCHA apartments, including lead, pest and mold remediation in some developments, plus offering low-interest loans for necessary improvements to private homes.
While some Bed-Stuy residents may be taking the wait-and-see approach to the plan’s promises, NYC Council Housing Chair Robert Cornegy said the initiative was “an example of successful planning.”
“Fighting housing speculation and related illegal activities takes a combined effort of local residents and leadership by City Hall,” he said. “That is exactly what the Bed-Stuy Housing Initiative does, creating new affordable rental opportunities and supporting owners in financial distress.”
5 Goals of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Housing Plan
- Support tenants and owners struggling with rising housing costs and financial hardship
- Reduce housing speculation and illegal housing-related activities
- Improve housing conditions and promote better housing quality
- Enhance education outreach and information-sharing with homeowners and tenants
- Create new affordable rental and homeownership opportunities on vacant land