535 Carlton Avenue in
535 Carlton Avenue in Brooklyn

Cities across the U.S. are struggling with the need for housing affordable enough for local residents. Many housing authorities help developers assign a number of units in a building to different income "bands," targeting residents across the spectrum of the area median income.

New buildings offering affordable housing options often see an overwhelming amount of applications. However, when those applications are broken down to consider the number of people applying for each income band, it's clear the demand doesn't match the supply.

At 535 Carlton in Brooklyn, for example, more than 92,000 households applied for 297 apartments. But when broken down by income bracket, a majority of this demand fell in the lowest one.

Only 2,203 applications came in for 148 middle-income apartments, which were affordable to households making six figures. Another 4,609 applications were for 44 middle-income units targeting households earning just below six figures. Some 18,680 applications, meanwhile, came in for the 15 units designated for moderate-income households. Yet, nearly 67,000, or 72%, of the applications were for the tower's 90 low-income units.

The results fit with what low-income advocates have been saying: the real need is for the lowest-rent units,” observed housing policy analyst Tom Waters of the Community Service Society upon being told of the findings. Thus, he said, the term “affordable for whom” has growing resonance.

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