City Council districts are damned segregated, too

Affordable Housing |

November 11, 2020 — We were grateful to see the editorial today in The New York Times that made the long overdue point that “New York needs affordable housing in wealthy areas, too,” and called for reform or elimination of the City’s discriminatory “community preference” (outsider-restriction) policy in its affordable housing lotteries. But the editorial has one premise that needs correcting: the suggestion that City Council districts (there are 51) are larger and “generally more diverse” than the local community district (there are 59). We took a quick look at that latter claim. Unfortunately, it’s not just New York City as a whole that is marked by deep residential segregation, and not just New York City’s community districts that have that problem: City Council districts do, too.

Based on 2014-18 five-year American Community Survey data, we counted the community districts and the Council districts where the percentage of Black, non-Hispanics was less than 25 percent of the citywide percentage. We did the same for White, non-Hispanics.  We also did those counts where the percentage of Asian, non-Hispanics was less than 50 percentage of the citywide percentage, and where the pecentage of Hispanics of any race was less than 50 percent of the citywide percentage. The results are shown in the table, below.

As you see, City Council districts are not beacons of diversity.  For Blacks and Hispanics, there is essentially no difference between deep underrepresentation at the City Council level as compared with the Community District level.  For Whites, there is a somewhat higher percentage of deep underrepesentation in City Council districts than in Community Districts, and the reverse is true for Asians.

Ultimately, all these machinations take away from the main point: Only an equal-access lottery honors the choices that lottery applicants themselves make as to where they want to compete for affordable housing.

  Community Districts City Council Districts
  Number Percentage Number Percentage
Districts where Black, non-Hispanic pop is less than 25% of citywide 14 23.73 12 23.53
Districts where White, non-Hispanic pop is less than 25% of citywide 18 30.51 19 37.25
Districts where Asian, non-Hispanic pop is less than 50% of citywide 25 42.37 18 35.29
Districts where Hispanic-of-any-race pop is less than 50% of citywide 16 27.12 14 27.45