More and More New Yorkers Are Living Under the Poverty Line, Says Census Bureau Study


The U.S. Census Bureau released its 2012 report on housing, education, and income. The findings show that poverty in New York City increased in 2012, up to 14.8 percent from 14.1 percent the year before. Despite the steady clime in the number of people living under the poverty line since 2009, rent costs have stayed the same, the city median resting around $1200 a month.

The widening income gap in the city has been the marquee issue of the mayoral campaign, with all candidates on both sides of the aisle sounding off on their views on how to alleviate it.

Bill de Blasio could credit his rapid ascendance to the Democratic party nomination to his “Tale of Two Cities” rhetoric, a phrase dripping with the class antagonisms many New Yorkers contend with.

Joe Lhota, the Republican nominee, has accused de Blasio of inciting “class warfare” with the phrase, but has himself conceded that the problems of income inequality–housing affordability chief among them–would figure into his mayoralty.

So now that the data is in, how will city agencies respond to increasing housing instability? The Department of Housing Preservation & Development says that providing more affordable housing is business as usual, citing plans to increase affordable housing from 156,300 to 165,000 units by the end of the current fiscal year.

“To date, 80% of our affordable housing production has been targeted to low-income households, which Census data from the 2011 NYC Housing and Vacancy Survey showed has the highest percentage of rent-burdened households,” said HPD spokesman Eric Bederman to Runnin’ Scared.

“Our next steps are to continue to finance the construction and preservation of affordable housing, and to protect our city’s tenants through the enforcement of the housing and maintenance codes.”

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs adds that things have gotten better over the long term, not worse. “Relative to other cities, New York City has made real progress in reducing poverty under Mayor Bloomberg–in 2000 we had the 6th highest poverty rate among the top twenty largest cities–today we have fallen to 13th,” she said in a statement to Runnin’ Scared.

But whether city agencies will give special assistance to vulnerable groups is unclear. The New York Times reports that while the citywide poverty rate is 14.8 percent, that figure masks a much more dire situation for single mothers and Black and Hispanic families.

Two of the more striking numbers: Thirty-one percent of children 17 and younger live in poverty in the city. Of households headed by single women, 32 percent live below the poverty line.