East Harlem has lost more than 1,500 affordable housing units since 2011 and is projected to lose nearly 7,000 more over the next decade. The New York Academy of Medicine conducted a rapid health impact assessment to examine the potential health effects of the mandatory inclusionary housing policy outlined in New York City’s East Harlem Neighborhood Plan. The policy requires developers to include affordable housing in areas that are rezoned to allow for greater housing density and development.
The final report recommended reducing the risk of displacement due to higher housing costs and gentrification by carrying out the recommendations from the housing preservation section of the plan, which is designed to ensure that affordable units in East Harlem—particularly in privately owned buildings—are maintained. The authors recommend that the City Council and the New York City Planning Department require that a quarter of affordable housing be set aside for families or individuals earning 60 percent of area median income (AMI), with 10 percent required for those earning 40 percent AMI, along with the additional option of 20 percent of units at 40 percent AMI. The report also recommends focusing funding on improving the condition of existing housing, especially aging buildings and in New York City Housing Authority developments. This includes incorporating design principles that encourage physical activity in new developments; creating alternative green spaces, such as rooftop gardens, where outdoor space is lacking; ensuring safe renovation and repair practices to minimize residents’ exposure to dust; and involving residents in decision-making.