The launch event for the most recent edition of the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy’s State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods report, published annually since 2001 and an indispensable resource for policymakers, assembled an expert panel to look at the specific policy issue highlighted in this year’s document: poverty in New York City, and particularly spatially concentrated poverty.

The event was introduced by Boxer Family Professor of Law Vicki Been ’83 and Professor Katherine O’Regan of NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, faculty co-directors at the Furman Center. “Concentrated poverty is of concern because of the neighborhood conditions that might come with concentrated poverty,” said O’Regan, “and because of our increased recognition of the role of neighborhoods in the quality of life for residents and upward trajectories.”

According to the report, poverty is concentrated unevenly across New York’s five boroughs. For example, while more than half of Bronx neighborhoods are classified as high- or extreme-poverty in the report’s findings, the figure in Queens is less than 4 percent. At the same time, living in areas of concentrated poverty is correlated with race and ethnicity. Large proportions of New York City children and poor children live in high-poverty areas—of the 1.7 million New Yorkers living in poverty, one-third are children—raising concerns about thwarted economic mobility and increasing inequality. In the panel discussion, Gustavo Velasquez, director of the Urban Institute’s Washington-Area Research Initiative, said, “Probably the most touching human moral takeaway from this report is the element of the poorest of the poor being the children.”

The conversation covered a range of issues from gentrification and income inequality (Assistant Professor Jacob Faber of NYU Wagner pointed out that Manhattan has the most extreme gap between rich and poor of any county in the nation) to health care and life expectancy. Jennifer Jones Austin, chief executive officer and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, observed, “The challenge that we have when poverty becomes increasingly concentrated in terms of where people live is that sometimes the resources in those communities are not keeping up with the levels of the need.”

The panelists exchanged numerous ideas about solutions at the municipal, regional, and state levels, including better facilitating of the use of housing choice vouchers and making it easier for developers to obtain tax credits and subsidies to build mixed-income housing. Despite the daunting obstacles, Robin Snyderman, a principal at BRicK Partners, expressed optimism: “I continue to be very heartened by the number of metropolitan planning organizations who have gotten out of their comfort zone of only talking about transportation and land use and incorporated the housing discussion, and are now also working collaboratively with regional housing authorities and regional municipal leaders in the state housing finance agencies to make sure that all of those resources are lining up to advance common priorities about where opportunity areas exist and where revitalization dollars are needed most.” 

Watch the video of the report launch event (1 hr, 48 min):

Posted June 20, 2017