A luxury condo building on New York City’s Upper West Side has gotten clearance from the city to have a separate entrance, or a “poor door,” for low-income tenants, according to the New York Post.
Extell, which is building the 33-story complex, will build a specific door for the 55 affordable housing units it’s including in order to be allowed to build a bigger building. The low-income units, which are available to people making 60 percent of median income or less, will also be in a segment that only contains affordable apartments and that faces the street while the luxury apartments will face the river.
In New York City, this arrangement is relatively common. Luxury builders get credits to use up more square footage than they normally could by promising to build affordable units as well. Those developers can then sell the credits to cover the costs of building the low-income housing. Because Extell considers the affordable segment to be legally separate from the rest of the building, it says it is required to have different entrances.
And besides being made to use a separate entrance, some low-income residents in luxury buildings are prohibited from using the amenities offered to the wealthy tenants, which in the case of this particular building include swimming pools and regulation-sized basketball courts. Several buildings in the city ban affordable housing or rent-regulated tenants from using perks like gyms, rooftops, and pools, and the practice is on the rise.
New York City lawmakers have taken notice of all of this, and two council members are working on legislation that would expand the city’s anti-discrimination protections to include rent-regulated tenants. A state assemblywoman has introduced legislation that would require buildings to let low-income renters use all the amenities.
These issues come at a time when the ability to afford rent is out of reach for more and more city residents. Median rent is nearly 40 percent of median income in New York City, much higher than what is considered affordable. And as in the rest of the country, rents are rising, with the median Manhattan apartment going for $3,247 a month, the second highest level in more than five years. At the same time, the panel that determines how much landlords can raise costs for rent-controlled tenants rejected a proposed freeze and approved a 1 percent uptick. Building more affordable units could help ease that squeeze for some families, but will come with some stigma if they’re kept separate from the better off.
And all of these challenges disproportionately impact people of color. While about 73 percent of people who rent at market rates in Manhattan and nearly 77 percent who own are white, just 47 percent of rent-regulated tenants are white. Rent-regulated tenants, perhaps unsurprisingly, also earn less, making $51,010 a year at the median compared to $103,680 for those renting at market rates. That means restrictions on entrances and amenities impact poor people of color the most.