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City Council Hears Proposal to Address Years-Long Waitlist for Senior Housing


HOST INTRO: It’s not easy finding housing in New York — everyone knows that. It’s even harder if you’re a senior citizen, living on a fixed income. A new plan proposed by Mayor De Blasio would address the senior housing shortage head on. But not everyone is convinced it will work.

Jephie Bernard reports.

BERNARD 1: It’s lunch time at the Coffeehouse Senior Center in midtown Manhattan. Lasagna is on the menu. And Eddie Murphy’s in the house. Well, not that Eddie Murphy.

MURPHY 1 “My name is Edward Murphy everybody call me Eddie, that’s why my son don’t like the name because of Eddie Murphy the movie star.” (0:08)

BERNARD 2: Murphy is 66, and he comes here every day, to see friends and just pass the time. He’s mostly retired, though he does occasional work for the city. He also gets veterans benefits and social security. But New York is expensive. And that income wasn’t enough. Like most of the seniors at the center today, Murphy was homeless for awhile.

BERNARD: Where did you stay where did you sleep?

MURPHY: In my storage.

BERNARD: Your storage where?

MURPHY: In Harlem.

BERNARD 5: Murphy had gone through a divorce, and been hit with a lot financial problems. He lost his apartment, and that’s how he wound up living in an uptown storage unit. So he put his name on the city’s list for subsidized senior housing. And then… he waited. And waited… And waited… Murphy’s situation was hardly unique, and this week, the City council held a hearing on a new proposal which promises to address it. The goal is to help preserve and create more affordable housing for seniors. It’s called the Zoning for Quality and Affordability, or ZQA. Just how many seniors like Eddie Murphy are there in New York? An organization called LiveOn NYC did a survey to find out.

SACKMAN 1 That’s where we got one hundred and two thousand seniors waiting an average of seven years.

BERNARD: That’s Bobbie Sackman, director of Public Policy for LiveOn NYC. Sackman says there are some who have been waiting over a decade.

SACKMAN 2 When you get to a certain age sixty seventy eighty your relationship with time obviously changes than when you’re younger you don’t want to wait then. 

BERNARD 7: ZQA promises to reduce that wait time, by changing zoning regulations to allow the city to build more affordable units. And as the city’s population ages, New York is going to need those senior apartments. In fact, spaces just aren’t freeing up fast enough for new residents to move in.

SACKMAN 3 It’s a terrible thing I’m about to say but you’re either waiting for someone to move to a nursing home or die or move somewhere else but that’s when and apartment will open up. 

BERNARD 9: As for Murphy, he waited three years before he got his apartment, in the South Bronx. And he doesn’t think the housing situation for seniors like him is going to improve much, with or without ZQA.

MURPHY “You go to city council and all that if you have a problem, they take they time helping you. They gon’ get paid whether they help you or not.” 

BERNARD: The city council will vote on the proposal in March. Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of seniors hoping to move into an apartment they can afford; and they’re still waiting. Jephie Bernard, Columbia Radio News.


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