Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) was joined by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in Flatbush on Tuesday afternoon to announce the Affordable Housing and Area Median Income (AMI) Act of 2022, a new legislation addressing the affordability of housing across the nation.

The bill is designed to target large urban areas like New York City, where units branded as “affordable housing” have long been deemed unaffordable by those who seek housing.

“Cities like New York, which were once the cornerstone of the American Dream, are quickly becoming out of reach for far too many Americans,” said Gillibrand.

The first part of the bill will allow jurisdictions to direct HUD to explore alternative methods to calculating Area Median Income (AMI), which determines who qualifies for affordable housing. The AMI for a family of three in New York City in 2022 is $120,100, a figure some consider too high, as it includes incomes from those living in the City’s wealthiest areas.

“Residents living in Flatbush and Westchester County should not be put together to calculate an area median income to determine how much they should pay in rent and housing costs,” said Clarke.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand & Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke announce the Affordable Housing and Area Median Income (AMI) Act of 2022. Photo: Christopher Edwards for BK Reader.

The bill will also authorize $5 million dollars a year from 2023 through 2032 to the Housing Trust Fund to go toward affordable housing development in densely populated cities like New York.

Tuesday’s press conference was held inside a unit of the newly built Caton Flats development, a 14-story mixed-use building in Flatbush offering 100% affordable housing units. The units sit atop Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace, which re-opened last month under its new name. The Marketplace was first founded more than 20 years ago by Congresswoman Clarke’s mother, former Congresswoman Una S.T. Clarke.

“Today, what started out as a small gathering of blankets and tents out on our city streets has become an invaluable resource for all New York, especially the Caribbean community,” said Clarke, reflecting on her mother’s legacy in Flatbush.

Clarke and Gillibrand were joined by Emily Goldstein, Director of organizing and advocacy for the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), who voiced her support for the bill, sharing her experience with New York City’s affordability problem.

“I’ve been doing affordable housing advocacy and tenant organizing for over 15 years now, and in countless community meetings in neighborhoods in all five boroughs, I hear over and over that “affordable” is not affordable to us,” said Goldstein.

Renae Widdison, Coalition for Community Advancement:?Progress for East New York/Cypress Hills, Rezoning, Elena Conte, CEQR Technical Manual, EIS, The Pratt Center for Community Development
A photo from the Flawed Findings study of East New Yorkers protesting the East New York rezoning proposal, raising awareness about concerns that any new affordable housing built as part of the plan would not be affordable to current neighborhood residents and that displacement would occur. Photo by Maria Belford, Courtesy of CHLCD.

“Adjusting the way we define affordable housing and targeting our resources to the people who actually need them most is the way to tackle our affordability and our homelessness crisis.”

Both Goldstein and Gillibrand pointed to a recent Housing and Vacancy Survey by HPD which found that less than 1% of apartments in New York City priced $1,500 and below are vacant. The survey also found that apartments on the higher end of the spectrum are also vacant, with 12% of units priced above $2,300 sitting empty.

“No hardworking America show have to go bankrupt simply trying to live in a safe, accessible home,” said Gillibrand. “Congress must act now to address this national crisis and ensure that families of all income levels have access to safe and affordable housing.”

Christopher Edwards

Christopher Edwards is a Brooklyn-based writer and Journalism student at Baruch College.

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