New Study Focused on East Harlem Finds a Connection Between Affordable Housing and Good Health

Affordable housing is tough to come by in East Harlem — and a groundbreaking study finds the stress of displacement has a negative impact on residents' health. Our Cheryl Wills explains.

Charles Bridges says he's tired of getting booted out of neighborhoods to make way for expensive housing. The 49-year-old grew up in Williamsburg and he says he was pretty much forced to leave about a decade ago.

"I felt disenfranchised like I wasn't a part of that community no more," Bridges said.

Now he lives in East Harlem, and he says it's happening all over again.

"Where are we gonna go?" he asked. "We don't have nowhere to go no more and I been through this - I don't wanna cry but I don't want to go through this anymore."

Bridges, a diabetic,  recently suffered a mild stroke , he also has bouts with depression, mood disorders.  And a new groundbreaking study from the New York Academy of Medicine detects a link between poor health and displacement.

The East Harlem Neighborhood Plan Health Impact Assessment: Connecting Housing Affordability and Health is the first study of its kind to focus on East Harlem.

Researchers say East Harlem has lost 1,854 units of affordable housing since 2011

The neighborhood is projected to lose 6,817 more units over the next decade

Residents in this neighborhood suffer from higher rates of chronic disease like hypertension, diabetes, asthma and mental health disorders.

"It's both availability and quality of life issues can have very direct effects on the health of people in the community," said Dr. Joy Ivy Bouffard, president of the New York Academy of Medicine.

As affordable and low income housing disappears, Bridges says he does not plan to go quietly this time.  He's now part of a grassroots organization called Community Voices Heard.

"We're gonna stand up we're gonna fight and this time we're not gonna just let it happen," Bridges said.

"I think there are opportunities that the city needs to focus on," said Daisy Gonzalez, with Community Voices Heard. "That will truly benefit low income residents."

Researchers hope the study will encourage  legislators to take the health risks of East Harlem residents into consideration and protect housing for the city's most vulnerable population.

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