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Inwood, Washington Heights among neighborhoods targeted for anti-displacement program

Inwood residents recently voiced concerns over the city’s rezoning proposal at a City Council hearing.

The Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan was selected to

The Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan was selected to become part of an anti-tenant displacement program being launched by city housing agencies. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

City housing agencies are teaming up with community organizations to launch a pilot program aimed at ensuring New Yorkers can remain in their homes amid rising rents.

The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Housing Development Corporation on Tuesday unveiled the Partners in Preservation initiative, targeting vulnerable residents in Inwood, Washington Heights, East Harlem and the Jerome Avenue area of the Bronx.

“Preservation is the cornerstone of our efforts to protect the affordability of our city through the mayor’s housing plan, and we’re using every available tool — and creating new ones — to keep New Yorkers in their homes and neighborhoods,” HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer said in an emailed statement. “Through our new Partners in Preservation pilot program, we’re joining forces with community-based organizations to double down on our efforts to combat displacement with a targeted, comprehensive approach to enforcement and preservation that will help neighborhoods most at risk of losing affordability.”

East Harlem and Jerome Avenue were recently rezoned by the city, making way for more development in those areas despite opposition from some affordable housing advocates.

An Economic Development Corporation proposal to rezone Inwood is currently being considered by the City Council, and residents have expressed concerns over being priced out their homes. Inwood and Washington Heights were included in the pilot because of an uptick in tenant harassment and displacement in the neighborhoods, according to HPD.

The $1.5 million pilot program, funded by the city and Enterprise Community Partners, seeks to prevent tenant displacement using a four-pronged strategy:

  • Identifying rent-regulated buildings, which are prone to tenant harassment and displacement, through a data-driven process.
  • Creating action plans tailored to individual buildings’ needs with regard to code enforcement, organizing and educating tenants, affirmative litigation and legal counseling.
  • Coordinating with community groups, including legal service providers and housing advocates.
  • Focusing on areas where the building-specific action plans can be combined with outreach efforts to make sure tenants understand their rights.

The funding contribution from Enterprise Community Partners was the result of a settlement the state attorney general’s office had reached with the Royal Bank of Scotland over misconduct.

“Through the funding we secured in our settlements with the big banks, we’ve been able to empower communities across the state to overcome the devastating effects of the foreclosure crisis and housing downturn,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in an emailed statement. “I’m proud that these funds have now made it possible for New York City to create a pilot program that will focus on combating displacement and keeping our neighborhoods affordable.”

After the program was announced, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Harlem), who represents Inwood, said affordable housing is a “fundamental tenet of communities that thrive.”

“It remains critical that we work together to ensure the lives of my constituents and our neighbors are not displaced and uprooted with any new development,” Espaillat said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

HPD staff and the community groups, which have not yet been chosen, will work together to actualize the anti-displacement strategies. The city intends to issue a request for proposals from potential nonprofit community groups “in the coming months,” according to the HPD.

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