LiveOn NY Study: New York’s Affordable Housing Crisis for Seniors Persists

Wait Time Upwards of 10.3 years; Minimum of 19,700 Seniors Languish on Affordable Housing Waitlists on the Upper West Side

Study Conducted in Manhattan Community Districts 7 and 9 — UWS Likely Indicative of City at Large

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Andrea Cianfrani, Dir. of Public Policy, 212-398-6565x233, acianfrani@liveon-ny.org

New York, NY — The number of seniors on wait lists for affordable housing in New York continues to rise as the city gets older, according to a white paper released today by LiveOn NY, an advocacy and policy organization for New York’s community-based aging service providers.   

Highlights from the study: 

  • 19,700 seniors are currently on waiting lists in Community Districts 7 and 9 on the Upper West Side. With an overall response rate of 44%, it is estimated that an astounding 44,028 seniors are on waiting lists for affordable housing through the HUD202 program in this neighborhood alone.
  • Of the seven affordable housing developments which responded to the study, only three were currently accepting additions to their waitlists 
  • With an average wait time of 10.6 years, a senior who signs up for affordable housing at the moment of eligibility—62 years old—will wait on average until he or she is 72.6 for affordable housing.  
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“This study is proof of something we’ve known for a long time—New York City must continue to expand the stock of affordable senior housing with services, which allow seniors to age in the communities they have helped to build,” said Allison Nickerson, Executive Director of LiveOn NY. “As New York gets older, it is crucial that we direct resources to developing new affordable housing and ensuring that seniors can age with dignity and respect. Our communities must rally around organizations and elected officials who fight to make New York a better, safer city to age in place.” 

Approximately 45 affordable units become vacant in the neighborhood each year.  With over 19,700 seniors waiting to receive them, the odds of receiving affordable housing have become increasingly bleak. However, the white paper notes that the disparity in affordable housing access would almost certainly be even wider without the work of local and city officials to close the gap—including mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to construct or preserve 15,000 units of affordable senior housing as a component of the city’s overall housing plan, and Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson’s initiative to ensure that low income tenants have access to a civil lawyer when facing eviction. 

Though the study takes place in Community Districts 7 and 9, the organization believes that the findings are indicative of the city at large, where over 200,000 seniors are on waitlists for affordable housing, according to an earlier study.

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“Too many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers – especially seniors – are currently facing a staggering affordability crisis in our city,” said New York City Council Member Mark Levine. “New Yorkers have the right to affordable housing, which is why I’m so proud that just this August -- with the invaluable help of advocates like LiveOn NY -- we were able to pass my legislation creating a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction, which will protect tens of thousands for seniors from being unfairly evicted from their homes. However, this report makes it clear there is still much more to do. I look forward to continuing to work with LiveOn NY, and my colleagues such as Council Member Margaret Chin, to make sure the City is doing everything in its power to help the 200,000 seniors currently waiting for affordable housing.”
 
"This study provides more evidence of a growing crisis that demands tough decisions by elected officials called to represent all of our communities -- not just a privileged few lucky enough to have housing that is safe, accessible and affordable," said Councilwoman Margaret Chin, chair of the City Council's Committee on Aging. "One of the highest callings of the progressive movement is the commitment to caring for the most vulnerable among us. In our drive to be a more fair, equitable and just city, we cannot overlook the growing number of seniors who are still waiting for housing. We have a solemn obligation to these seniors who have contributed, and continue to contribute, so much to the life of one of the greatest cities in the world. It's my hope that this study will be a wake up call for us all that we may never forget this solemn obligation to our elders." 

"Thank you to LiveOn NY for shedding light on the extent of the housing crisis in New York City and how it disproportionately affects our seniors. It is unacceptable that as many as 44,000 seniors are currently on waiting lists for affordable housing in Community Districts 7 and 9 on the Upper West Side. My office has assisted hundreds of seniors in danger of losing their homes, which many have lived in for most of their lives, because of soaring property values and the rising cost of living overall. We must protect residents who have been the bedrock of our neighborhoods that we call home. I hope this white paper becomes a galvanizing step toward comprehensive citywide solutions that give our seniors the support they need at the moment they need it most,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

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“The numbers tell the story – we need to build much more affordable senior housing,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Stable, multigenerational neighborhoods are one of the cornerstones of a healthy city – we need our seniors, and they need us. Thank you to LiveOnNY for this report and the call to action it provides.”

As the baby boomer generation ages, the city population is skewing older.  New York City’s senior population is expected to grow by 47% by 2030, with a growing percentage of seniors preferring to age in place, surrounded by the social networks and supports they have cultivated over a lifetime rather than making the often costly move to a nursing home.  These factors will combine to ensure that demand for affordable senior housing continues to grow dramatically citywide.   

The study, conducted on the Upper West Side, is part of a larger series on affordable housing that the organization has released over the past few years. In 2016, LiveOn found that 2,000 seniors were on wait lists for affordable housing in nearby Council Districts 6 and 7—with a response rate of 37%, the organization estimated that upwards of 5,406 could actually have been waiting for a spot. The average wait for affordable housing last year was seven years.