In a blog post in this space last month, I reported on an unusual Manhattan housing development which was designed to include both high end and affordable apartments. Included as a part of the project is what has been referred to as a “poor door” – a separate entrance for people who will live in the affordable units. Many officials, as well as housing advocates, have severely criticized the “poor door” concept as improper government-approved (if not unlawful) housing segregation. Indeed, my article prompted multiple government officials to reach out to me to seek more details. It is fair to say that the “poor door” concept has caught the eye of those in government who regulate housing and who enforce the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and its state law counterpart.
Because of the publicity, it appears as if the project will be changing. While the “poor door” is not (at least not yet) going away, the developer and city have reworked the project such that the affordable residents will have an entrance with shared access to a courtyard as well as a 12,000 foot roof deck with views of the Hudson River. The custom wood entrance will also face a four acre public park and will have a lobby with a glass facade – all changes proposed in an effort to remove the stigma of a rear alley entrance or of a back door.
Again, the optics of the “poor door” are just very difficult to overcome. The fact that new affordable housing units are being proposed (in a city with real affordable housing needs) is just getting lost. As the project is just getting underway, however, it seems likely that there will be more changes before it is built and ready for occupancy. And then the building will face scrutiny from the federal government, state government, and/or City of New York as someone (likely more than one person) will file a complaint alleging that the “poor door” – even the upgraded “poor door” with amenities – still has a disparate impact on a protected class and, as such, violates the FHA and New York law. You can count on that.
Just A Thought.