The Fair Housing Act (FHA), passed into law in 1968, protects several classes of individuals from discrimination when renting, buying, or financing a home, including people with disabilities, while New York State and the New York City Human Rights Law provide additional protections based on factors such as age and citizenship. The FHA, through a 2015 federal ruling, requires cities to “affirmatively further fair housing,” which was the inspiration behind the creation of Where We Live NYC.
Where We Live NYC is an initiative of the City of New York. It is spearheaded by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) in partnership with the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA). Several additional government agencies and community-based partners, all working collaboratively, are focused on confronting segregation, fighting discrimination, and taking action to advance opportunities for populations that have historically been discriminated against. Specifically, this entails expanding housing options and providing related opportunities, such as the ability to live in high performing school districts.
The Where We Live NYC collaboration, which kicked off in the spring of 2018, has a two-year timeline. “Ultimately, we are going to create measurable goals and strategies that will culminate in a final report sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the fall of 2019 and that the city will look to implement over time,” said Leila Bozorg, deputy director of the HPD Office of Neighborhood Strategies. The process is broken down into the Learn, Create, and Finalize phases.
The Learn phase ran from the spring of 2018 to the fall of this year. The objective was to understand existing conditions and root causes that result in a lack of housing options and other opportunities. To support this effort, a stakeholder group was created consisting of 13 community-based organizations, including the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY. Six “roundtable” meetings were held to share and capture expert insight. In addition, dozens of community conversation sessions, covering all five boroughs and consisting of residents of various protected classes, took place. Individuals shared how they decide where to live and how their homes and neighborhoods impact their lives and families. Conversations also centered on experiences with discrimination and future goals.
Based on captured insights, top contributing factors to housing discrimination, segregation, and lack of opportunities were identified and placed into nine categories:
- The location and type of affordable and accessible housing
- Loss of and displacement from affordable housing
- Community opposition to new projects, including those related to housing and infrastructure
- Challenges to using housing vouchers—particularly in high cost areas
- Admission and occupancy restrictions
- Discrimination and enforcement that result from gaps in protections
- Disparities in public and private investment services and amenities across neighborhoods
- Accessibility and reliability of public transportation
- Location of proficient schools and school assignment policies
The Create phase will start this month with stakeholder groups reconvening in new roundtable discussions scheduled to take place over a two-month period. The objective will be to develop goals and strategies leading to policy solutions for each of the top contributing factors. This effort will be strengthened through data analysis headed by various city agencies.
The Finalize phase will take place in 2019 with Where We Live NYC publicly sharing the initial policy framework, receiving feedback, and then submitting the final version that fall.
While the goals of Where We Live NYC are focused on supporting the well-being of a broad-range of communities that are systematically discriminated against, the resulting policies of the initiative could potentially have a legitimate positive impact for the community of people with disabilities.
“For years, the community has been talking about housing discrimination, but no one would listen,” said Donald Rickenbaugh, director of Queens services at CIDNY. “We are excited to be involved in this initiative knowing the voice of people with disabilities will be heard in the effort to change policy, regulations, and law to protect people with disabilities from housing discrimination.”
For information on housing and other resources for people with disabilities, visit the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.
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