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This is an explanation of the actions of the Settlement Housing Fund Initiative in providing affordable housing to residents of the city of New York particularly in Mt. Eden located in the Bronx. It presents an analysis of issues that the Settlement Housing Fund set out to resolve in the neighborhood in providing descent accommodation for residents. It also addresses the concerns of the community with regard to discrimination in the housing sector, something that has been of interest to human rights activists in New York to address discrimination against residents on account of their race or otherwise.
The Community of Mt. Eden and the New Settlement Project
The community of Mount Eden in the Bronx New York City is host to thousands of New York residents who are differentiated in their business capabilities and find themselves in a neighborhood that has a longstanding history of crime, drug abuse and various other social problem concerns. The New Settlements Apartments project is an ambitious undertaking of the Settlement Housing Fund Initiative (SHFI) an organization that is dedicated to developing affordable housing solutions in the city of New York. The group is cognizant of the diversity in New York City inhabitants. As such, it strives to maintain the assortment of both ethnic and economic composition of the residents of New York City by ensuring that development does not render some residents homeless due to their ethnic background or due to their financial incapability (Settlement Housing Fund).
Residents benefiting from the New Settlements project number about 3, 500 people distributed through 1, 022 housing units that are affordable. As mentioned earlier, the Bronx is synonymous with an assortment of criminal activity ranging from gang related activities to drug use and petty theft. However, there exist other challenges that face residents of the Mount Eden district of the Bronx. Recently, in December 2011, residents of the Mount Eden building filled the streets protesting the lack of gas in the building that had not met the regulations and standards prescribed by authorities. Their interest was particularly the inconvenience caused to them as residents of the building by the landlord who failed to fix the gas supply to the building following a fire incident (Beekman).
The major needs of residents of Mount Eden and generally the Bronx are security, education and taming the drug menace in the region. Many social problems plague the Bronx that are associated with poverty, crime and drug addiction. The rate of dropouts from schools is significantly higher than average. In most schools, in the region students must pass through metal detectors. Thereafter, they have to swipe their cards to enter the buildings. This is a procedure that is reminiscent of the prison environment which analysts purport to be an enhancer of immoral activity rather than a deterrent. Further, Drug addiction is also a major problem that youth is involved in owing to peer pressure. Notably another social problem in the city is graffiti that offenders do in the dead of the night costing the city millions that are spent in cleaning up the paint from the walls of the buildings (Rosenberg).
The New Settlements project is focused on reclaiming abandoned buildings 15 in number, coupled by the construction of one new building and acquisition of a 17th building that in total have the capacity earlier mentioned. Aside from developing units the SHFI is also involved in two community projects that are geared towards the transformation of the community of Mount Eden by providing education and social facilities aimed at improving the welfare of the community (Settlement Housing Fund).
One of the subprojects of the New Settlements project is the development of the College Access Center-an innovative state of the art campus that will serve to address the need to alleviate overcrowded schools. Secondly, the development of the Parents Action Committee is the other sub project that would serve to provide important knowledge and resources to the neighborhood's youth and families. The parents' association committee is expected to alleviate social problems to do with drug addiction and crime rates in the locality (Settlement Housing Fund).
With regard to the organization of the community development project, the New Settlements project is dedicated to working hand in hand with community members in ensuring that the project is sustainable and successful. Among the individuals that the project is in direct collaboration are; educational institutions, housing and community development organizations, businesses, youth development agencies as well as social services agencies. The general aims of the SHFI in developing these projects is to ensure that residents have access to affordable housing that is also reflective of dignified living conditions by providing social amenities. Fundamentally, through this the SHFI addresses inequalities that are brought about by diversity and financial capabilities (Settlement Housing Fund).
The mode of communication, therefore, takes the form of direct engagement with stakeholders such as union leaders in attempting to develop solutions for the rampant challenges in Mount Eden and the larger Bronx neighborhood. For instance, a tenant leader in the community of Mount Eden who heads the ‘College Avenue Tenants United' union by the name Dominga Sanchez in 2013 was all praises regarding the efforts that the New Settlement project brought to the area. He notes that basically, the greatest achievement in associating with the New Settlements project has been the acquisition of buildings from landlords that are deemed the ‘worst' given that they give no concern to the management of their buildings. Further, the community also has benefited in organizing themselves to spearhead public pressure that will hold public landlords accountable in future. Sanchez notes that it is this public mobilization of fellow tenants that brought the concerns of their neighborhood to the attention of organizations such as SHFI leading to the improvement of their living conditions and the transformation of their community (Rocchio).
This collaboration between the New Settlements project community and stakeholders ensures that flow of information through communication helps in educating residents on the action that they can take to ensure those landlords follow the laws prescribed by housing authorities. The SHFI ensures that collaboration within the community is the sole driver of community advocacy for residents to guarantee that their rights are respected by landlords in the Mount Eden region. Susan Blankley the director of housing in charge of the New Settlements project observes that the project has done well in getting rid of the ‘horrible landlords' but can do very little in dictating who takes over. This with effect places the community in a vulnerable position if such persons are as negligent as the previous owners or worse (Rocchio).
Therefore, as part of the community organizing the residents of Mount Eden are encouraged by the SHFI to organize themselves into groups that will act as checks and balances on rogue landlords who are bent on poor service delivery. As a result, the developments achieved through the New Settlements project wouldn't be at risk of diminishing. The development of a $ 100-million complex that includes; elementary school with a dance studio, music room, a rooftop garden, community center and a 75-foot swimming pool. It is one of the projects that the residents have to place a watchful eye over to ensure that they are well managed so that they benefit the Mount Eden community at large (Mount Eden Children's Academy).
Whereas the community project provides a service that in essence strives to address the needs of the community in general, it is apparent that the New Settlements project falls short in one element that is crucial in ensuring that the community of Mt. Eden enjoys the facilities that the project presents. This element has to do with the concern that the management of the facilities is left to the new owners of the buildings that have been renovated or constructed. Whereas the SHFI is dedicated to delivering quality affordable housing to the community of Mt. Eden, it is incapacitated in that it cannot hold accountable individuals who take control of the facilities after the upgrade is complete. Thus, it is a daunting task for the authorities to ensure that landlords who take over stick to the stipulated regulations with regard to housing laws in sustaining and managing the facilities developed through the New Settlements project (Rocchio).
On the other hand, the New Settlements projects meet the needs of the community of Mt. Eden with regard to the provision of affordable housing that also ensures that the residents lead a dignified life despite their ethnic backgrounds and financial capabilities. This is in line with the general mandate, vision and mission of the SHFI. Moreover, this fact is symptomatic in the composition of the Mount Eldon Children's Academy that gives an opportunity to children from ethnic communities that have long through North American history been marginalized in terms of discrimination particularly to do with social inequalities that relate to diversity. The school has no White students nor Asian students; however, its majority is composed of Hispanic students at 77% and African-American students at 20%. Other than that it is composed of up to 11% English learning students an indication that the school is dedicated to giving opportunity for education to the marginalized in the community (Mount Eden Children's Academy).
Communication is also key in ensuring the sustainability and responsible management of the New Settlements community projects. This has been a key concern of the SHFI that led to calls that would help in mobilizing community members and beneficiaries of the New Settlements project to take part in the management and sustenance of the New Settlement community projects. For instance, the SHFI encourages the community members to form lobby groups that act as watchdogs over rogue landlords who neglect the management of the facilities developed through the New Settlement project (Rocchio).
Legislation that pertains to discrimination in housing particularly in the New York City has been the cause of activism by human rights groups especially in the early 1990's sparked by the activities at the time by landlords in New York discriminating against Black and Hispanic households. Centrally, the discrimination is of a nature such as to deny the purchaser or tenant the right to purchase property or rent housing due to their race. The calls by human rights organizations led to the development of laws that protect people from ethnic discrimination whenever seeking to purchase or rent property in New York City (Schill 993).
Martin concurs that these discrimination laws have been effective in taming unruly discrimination in the housing industry especially in the City of New York on grounds such as religion, sex, national origin, race, sexual orientation and so forth. Hence, organizations such as the SHFI's efforts in ensuring that there is affordable housing for residents of the Mt. Eden community through the New Settlements project tows line with the current regulations in place that prohibit discrimination against individuals in the housing industry (Martin 1).
Other scholars such as Morris and Mathias of the United States Senate observe that the fair housing legislation is not an easy thing to implement but it has borne fruits for the United States as discrimination against persons due to their financial status or ethnic makeup has been addressed through fair housing projects such as the New Settlements project (Mathias and Morris 21).
On the downside, the efforts of the New Settlement development project has very little to be mentioned with respect to discrimination meted on persons with disabilities that are as well a pre-requisite of the housing rules within the city of New York (Martin 2). According to the management of the Mt. Eden Children's Academy, a portion of their students' fraternity is composed of disabled children although they do not mention disabilities. It is, therefore, an interest that the New Settlements project may have fallen short of consideration in terms of dealing with discrimination against the disabled (Mount Eden Children's Academy).
Notably, the legislation in place with regard to discrimination against the disabled is very clear which among other violations states that it is a violation for developers to construct buildings without door large enough to enable a wheelchair to pass through or sufficient Kitchen and bathroom clear floor areas for the physically disabled (Martin 2). According to Herrion, persons with disabilities have the right to ask for or request for and receive reasonable accommodation from housing providers by law. Further, that human rights activism for the enactment of laws against discrimination of the disabled in the housing industry is meant to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and also helps in removing discrimination from their lives (Herrion 1301).
Conclusion and Recommendations
Principally, the report has established that the New Settlement Project is a blessing that has uplifted the living standards of the Mt. Eden community. In effect with respect to the community's needs, the report finds that the community of Mt. Eden has benefited from affordable housing that addressed issues of inequality and discrimination that was a characteristic of the Bronx and New York City housing in general 20 years before the commencement of the project in the 1990s (Rocchio). Nonetheless, the project's success can only be realized through appropriate management of the resources as discussed. Equally, the project fell short in addressing discrimination concerns especially on persons with disabilities. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the report that the organizers of the New Settlement Project make appropriate steps in addressing this pertinent interest as it touches on fundamental human rights. Moreover, just as racial discrimination in the housing industry is a driver for the SHFI's vision to address this discrimination by providing affordable housing; it goes without argument that people living with disabilities deserve the same treatment when it comes to ensuring their rights, as well.
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Beekman, Daniel. "Tenants at Mount Eden building in Bronx sue landlord, protest lack of cooking gas before Christmas." New York Daily News (2011). Web. 7 February 2014.
Herrion, John P. "Developments in Housing Law and reasonable Accomodations for New York City Residents with Disabilities." Fordham Urban Law Journal 27.4 (1999): 1295-1302.
Martin, Robert A. "Fair Housing Cases Show Breadth of Discrimination Laws." New York Law Journal 250.18 (2013): 1-2.
Mathias, Charles and Marion Morris. "Fair Housing Legislation: Not an Easy Row To Hoe." A Journal of Policy Development and Research 4.3 (1999): 21-32.
Mount Eden Children's Academy. Inside Schools: Your Independent guide to NYC public schools. n.d. Web. 7 February 2014.
Rocchio, Patrick. "Ount Eden Tenants hopeful now that "worst" landlord is out." Bronx Times (2013). Web. 7 February 2014.
Rosenberg, Noah. "Keeping a Watchful eye on a Part of the Bronx." The New York Times (2011). Web. 7 February 2014.
Schill, Michael H. "Local Enforcement of Laws Prohibiting Discrimination in Housing: The New York City Human Rights Commission." Fordham Urban Law Journal 23.4 (1995): 991-1030.
Settlement Housing Fund. Building neighborhoods with affordable housing and community programs. 2014. Web. 7 February 2014.