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Housing in Brief: Under Pressure, New York Releases Public Housing COVID-19 Data

Plus, Boise pauses affordable housing grants and more.

The New York City Housing Authority reported that among residents at Grant Houses in Harlem (pictured), there were 662 COVID-19 cases and 33 deaths between March 2020 and June 2021. (Photo by danjo paluskaCC BY 2.0)

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Under Pressure, New York Releases Public Housing COVID-19 Data

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents make up 4% of the city’s population but constitute 7% of total deaths from COVID-19 between March 2020 and June 2021, Politico reports.

Statistics were shared with the public after tenants, housing advocates and elected officials pressured the health department.

According to Politico, residents said that “the lack of information had exacerbated anxieties around the virus and stymied their ability to combat Covid in their communities.”

In total, NYCHA had over 47,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 2,250 deaths among residents. Grant Houses in Harlem, one of the NYCHA developments most affected by the pandemic, reported 662 cases and 33 deaths.

“Now that we have this information, perhaps we can adjust our approach to stemming the spread of the virus in NYCHA and we can examine why it is the case that our NYCHA residents are dying at a higher percentage rate than the rest of the city,” New York State Sen. Zellnor Myrie said. “While that may present more work and more effort, it is completely worth it. And those underlying issues need to be addressed.”

Boise’s Affordable Housing Program Presses Pause

The City of Boise paused an affordable housing program after funding two projects, BoiseDev reports.

The Boise City Council approved $2 million for the program in 2018 to incentivize developers to build affordable units for low-income tenants through grants. A pilot began in November 2020, but records indicate that the city only gave funds to two applicants totaling $220,000 since then.

The initiative aimed to help city residents earning 30% or less of the area median income (AMI). Developers would receive grants ranging from $20,000 to $40,000 depending on the income of potential tenants.

Lana Graybeal, a city spokesperson, told BoiseDev that the program was put on hold as the city looked to assess their housing needs and explore other options for housing development.

Housing and Community Development Senior Manager Maureen Brewer revealed during a press conference that the program was not performing as expected. “[This is] a really illustrative example of where we tested something, we tried something, it wasn’t achieving the results we were looking for and we pulled it offline.”

British Environmentalists Protest to Tackle Carbon Emissions

Environmental activists blocked major roadway traffic to advocate for the insulation of 29 million British homes, The Conversation reports.

With 15% of Britain’s total carbon emissions coming from homes, a group called Insulate Britain promotes getting to net zero emissions through modifications like new wall insulation, double- or triple-glazed windows, heat pumps and more.

The Climate Change Committee, which advises the government, says it will cost about £26,000 (about U.S. $36,000) to fix a typical family home, or an annual amount of £27 billion over the next quarter century. This is the same as the annual spend on home repair and maintenance.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science and journalism in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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Tags: affordable housingcovid-19public housing

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