Housing Situation Getting Worse For Immigrants, Study Finds

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Washington Heights

Washington Heights, a traditionally immigrant neighborhood in Upper Manhattan.

Immigrants are finding it “harder than ever” to access safe and affordable housing in New York City, says a recent study published by a group of pro-immigrant organizations.

For the study, “Confronting the Housing Squeeze: Challenges Facing Immigrant Tenants, and What New York Can Do,” researchers surveyed 541 immigrant New Yorkers to talk about affordability, housing conditions, access to subsidized housing, and other indicators. The study was conducted by the Pratt Center for Community Development, with the New York Immigrant Housing Collaborative, which includes seven pro-immigrant groups. [You can download a pdf of the report clicking here.]

“Immigrant renters in New York City confront severe challenges finding safe, decent, and affordable housing,” the report said. “…(B)y almost every measure, immigrant tenants face housing problems to a degree much greater than native-born New Yorkers.” According to the report, 37 percent of the city’s population is foreign born.

“… (E)ven as they have brought new energy and investment to neighborhoods, many of these newcomers have ended up in overcrowded, illegal, expensive, or unhealthy living conditions.”

Median income for immigrant New Yorkers, the study says, is considerably less than for the native-born. At the same time, while the city has seen a rise in construction in recent years, the number of housing units available and affordable to low- to middle-income families “has decreased precipitously.”

The foreclosure crisis has made the situation worse. Most immigrants have not benefited from the drop in real estate prices, since rent declines are concentrated in the higher end of the Manhattan market.

“In the outer boroughs, where most New Yorkers and most immigrants live,” the authors wrote, “widespread foreclosures are leading to the eviction of tenants and homeowners alike.”

Among the report’s main findings:

  • Immigrant New Yorkers are more likely to pay high portions of their income for rent, a problem that especially affects low-income tenants. This affordability problem has been compounded by the gentrification of many neighborhoods.
  • Immigrants are three times more likely than native-born New Yorkers to live in overcrowded and illegal conditions. “About half of survey respondents knew of families living in illegal units,” the report said.
  • More than 70 percent of immigrant renters surveyed indicated that “most” or “a lot” of immigrants they knew live in poor or dangerous conditions.
  • The likelihood that a New Yorker lives in substandard conditions “appears to be correlated with race more than with immigrant status,” with native-born Black and Latino tenants suffering worse conditions than immigrants.
  • Immigrants have less access to publicly subsidized affordable housing programs than native-born New Yorkers.

In announcing the report, the New York Immigration Coalition said in a news release,

Rent is eating up larger and larger portions of people’s paychecks, and there are fewer affordable units—a situation made worse by the foreclosure crisis, gentrification, and predatory evictions from rent-regulated housing.

The organizations that form part of the housing collaborative include the New York Immigration Coalition, Asian Americans for Equality, Chhaya Community Development Corporation, Make the Road New York, Mirabal Sisters Cultural Community Center, Ykasec-Empowering the Korean American Community, and Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

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