Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

Congressman Serrano Writes to HUD in Support of AMI Changes for NYC

Dec 22, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano wrote to Julián Castro, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in support of testing changes to the calculation of Area Median Income (AMI) in the New York region.  The current calculation for New York City includes the New York metro region, and artificially raises the median income used to calculate 'affordable ' housing in the Bronx.  As a result, many Bronxites and New Yorkers are unable to afford housing that is categorized as affordable.  The  text of the letter is below:  



December 18, 2015

The Honorable Julián Castro
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410

Dear Secretary Castro,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your work as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to urge you to take action to address a pressing housing issue in New York City, and to meet with me on the same.  Current calculations of Area Median Income (AMI) for New York City, and my home borough of the Bronx, do not accurately reflect local conditions on the ground, where median incomes are significantly lower than the regional average.  I believe it is time to start testing an alternative methodology, and that New York is the perfect place to start these efforts.

New York City is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and the City has made several proposals to increase housing throughout the five boroughs. With plans to create about 200,000 affordable units over a period of ten years, this has put a heavy strain on many communities throughout New York City.  However, as we discuss ways to ensure that housing remains affordable for current residents of the Bronx and elsewhere, we have repeatedly encountered a problem with the way that Area Median Income is calculated, allowing new developments and renovated developments to charge significantly more that the median income of the local community.

This prevents newly ‘affordable’ housing from actually being affordable for those who live in the community.  For instance, an overwhelming majority of my constituents do not make the calculated 2015 AMI for the New York City region of $86,300 for a family of four. And it is not even close.  There is a median income of $34,388 for a family in the Bronx, according the U.S. Census bureau. With a poverty level of almost 30%, many of my constituents are struggling to pay rent, amongst other things. Under the new housing plans for New York City, which are based on the current regional AMI, many of the people who are living here will be displaced. 

I understand that HUD is currently working on pilot programs to explore different ways to more accurately measure the metrics involved in calculating other regional measurements, like Fair Market Rent (FMR). I believe it is time to expand these tests to AMI.  As I understand it, the Long Island and Westchester areas are included in the regional New York formula to calculate the area median income that is currently used by HUD.  Whether it is a measure of sub-metropolitan or by county in different cities, it is time to assess the impact of more accurate AMI measurements in New York City.  I believe this is of crucial importance to the future of our city and our nation.  The Bronx is considered to be the most diverse county in the U.S. according to the U.S. Census. HUD’s help is necessary to help preserve this diversity. 

During your tenure as Mayor of San Antonio, you were known as a national leader of urban investment, and I am heartened by your efforts as Secretary to date. I believe your goal “of giving every person, regardless of their station in life, new opportunities to thrive,” is an important one, and I believe that testing changes to AMI is an important step in that direction. The Bronx has been a champion for finding new opportunities, and I hope that we can work together we to ensure that this issue is addressed in a way that benefits the Bronx and our nation as a whole.  Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.






                                                                        José E. Serrano

                                                                        Member of Congress




Congressman José E. Serrano has represented The Bronx in Congress since 1990.