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Civil rights group creates tool to help New Yorkers find space for affordable housing

A sign announcing a house for sale is posted outside a single family home.
Charles Krupa
This map shows the Opportunity Index at the neighborhood level with areas in blue being high opportunity and areas in red being low opportunity

Long Island nonprofit ERASE Racism has released an online mapping tool to help users identify areas with high opportunities for affordable housing. The Syosset-based civil rights group created the tool to advocate for increased affordable and inclusive housing across the state.

The tool combines over 30 fair housing variables, such as financial stability and school district quality, to identify prime areas for the placement of affordable housing. The tool also identifies low-opportunity areas that need more investments to help improve local resources, and areas with a large racial disparity among residents.

"As an organization that's been around for over 20 years, we realize that Long Island is the 10th most segregated place in America," said Laura Harding, president of ERASE Racism.

"We wanted to get into educational equity, what we realized was housing and education are tied together. And then when we realized how segregated Long Island was, and that many of the affordable housing opportunities or choices were already in overburdened communities of color," Harding added. "We thought, 'how can we address help communities understand who needs affordable housing?'"

The map also allows users to search specific addresses based on the quality of local school districts, racial dissimilarity and existing subsidized and multifamily housing.

ERASE Racism hopes that this map will encourage potential housing developers to focus on the areas that need it most.

New York has long faced an affordable housing crisis — with New York City having the second-highest ratio of median rent to median household income out of the 25 largest cities in the United States. Contributing factors such as record high rent and zoning restrictions have caused the number of single adults experiencing homelessness in the city more than double in the past 10 years.

"I think it's understanding that the population [the affordable housing shortage] impacts is no longer very low income," Harding said.

"Affordable housing, except for the extremely wealthy, is really hitting everyone. And as our population ages, we're seeing that a lot of families, a lot of elders are having to struggle between eating and paying bills, and even selling that family home because their family members are not coming back," she continued.

Harding said ERASE Racism aims to expose forms of racial discrimination, advocate for laws and policies that eliminate racial disparities, increase understanding of how structural racism and segregation impact our communities and region and engage the public in fostering equity and inclusion.

The Affordable and Inclusive Housing Tool can be found on the ERASE Racism website.

Bill Rodrigues is a graduate intern at WSHU.