NEW YORK — Even though it is a widespread problem, advocates argue New York City’s affordable housing crisis has hit immigrants especially hard.
The city’s immigrant tenants are more likely than their American-born counterparts to live in overcrowded homes and to pay rents they cannot afford, according to a report the advocacy group Make the Road New York released Wednesday. And close to 900,000 of them live in apartments without any tenant protections.
The figures show just how urgent it is that the state Legislature strengthen the New York’s rent regulations before they expire in June, advocates and lawmakers say. They particularly pressed for a bill to ban most landlords from evicting tenants without a good cause.
“All of our families, immigrant and non-immigrant families alike, have too much to risk to not win on this critical issue this year,” said Julissa Bisono, a lead organizer with Make the Road.
With the existing rent regulations up for renewal this year, advocates have pushed hard for major reforms to protect tenants since Democrats won control of the state Legislature last November.
While the city is home to nearly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, which are subject to limits on annual rent increases, some 876,000 immigrant tenants in 350,000 households lack basic protections because the existing rent-regulation system does not cover their apartments, Make the Road’s report says.
They’re among more than 5 million such tenants across New York State, over 2 million of whom are immigrants, according to the report. Some 544,000 other unprotected immigrant tenants live in the nearby suburbs of Nassau, Westchester and Rockland counties, the report says.
Lots of immigrants do benefit from rent protections, as more than 47% of the city’s rent-regulated units house immigrant-headed households, the analysis found. But those tenants “are all too often subject to enormous rent increases and harassment by landlords,” the report says.
“Moreover, as with all low-income New York households, there is not even remotely enough rent regulated housing stock in New York to ensure sufficient affordable housing for all immigrants,” advocates wrote.
Immigrants are more likely than non-immigrants to pay rents beyond their means no matter where in the state they live, the research found. Some 52% of immigrant tenants in the city are rent-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent, compared with 42% of U.S.-born tenants, the report says.
That rate jumps to 82% for immigrant tenants who are low-income, compared with 74% of American-born low-income tenants in the city, the report says. And 49% of low-income, foreign-born tenants are severely rent-burdened, meaning rent eats up more than half their earnings, the research shows.
Immigrant households are also more likely to be overcrowded — 15.9% of them have more than one person per room, significantly higher than the rate of 9.6% for all New York City households, the report says.
The figures underscore the need for state lawmakers to extend tenant protections across the state and close loopholes that lead to rent hikes and harassment, advocates argue. The changes face likely opposition from industry groups such as the Real Estate Board of New York, which has argued that the current laws encouraged necessary investment in the city’s rental housing stock.
Advocates emphasized the importance of legislation to bar landlords from evicting tenants — particularly those in smaller buildings — without “good cause.” Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat, has introduced a bill to do just that. The proposal would cover all buildings except those with fewer than four units that are occupied by the owner, along with some other properties.
“The law has been written not to be on the side of tenants, and we are saying no more,” said state Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, a Queens Democrat who is herself an immigrant. “From now on it is the tenants it is the voters, it is the everyday person that we’re going to be looking after.”