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Population Movements: The South Asians Housing in NYC — A report by Chhaya CDC

Queens has been the most popular borough of residence for the South Asian immigrants who are among the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the borough. South Asian Americans — immigrants and children from the regions and border areas of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Tibet as well as the diasporas from the Caribbean and other areas — make up the second largest Asian immigrant population in New York. The South Asian community is a diverse group with linguistic, regional, social, political and religious differences.

The South Asian population in New York stands at 271,447 as of the 2000 Census as compared to 113,857 in 1990 recording an increase of 238 percent increase in population in the past decade. They represent 27.5% of the total Asian population in New York City. Of this, an overwhelming 62% of the total South Asian community lives in Queens. The South Asian population in Queens increased from 65,927 in 1990 to 133,911 in 2000 recording an increase of population over 100% in the past decade.

South Asians favor living in particular neighborhoods in Queens, which include Richmond Hill, Queens Village, Ozone Park and Jackson Heights. The distribution of South Asian households is not even within these neighborhoods. Communities favor particular neighborhoods. Hence while Jackson Heights and the Corona areas have a relatively uniform representation from the various communities, the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities favor living in Astoria, Sunnyside and Briarwood while the Indian populations tend to favor residing in the neighborhoods of Richmond Hill and Queens Village.

Identifying trends in housing — Richmond Hill, Queens

Chhaya's mission is to address and advocate for the housing and community development
needs of South Asian American communities in New York City regardless of class, caste,
country of origin, or religious affiliation. Further, Chhaya seeks to leverage existing resources by learning and working with other organizations to establish equal access to systems of support and to promote civic participation. Broadly, Chhaya also seeks to collaborate with other ethnic and minority populations to further better understanding among these communities.

Chhaya CDC

Richmond Hill in Queens is one of the Community Boards that has seen the maximum growth in South Asian populations in the last decades. According to the 2000 Census, a total of 15,193 South Asians live in the neighborhood. This community has seen a steady increase of over 300% in the population each decade from 1980- 2000 in this community board. The increase in the Asian Indian population during this period was 10532 in Richmond Hill. There were 1274 other South Asians (Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans who had not been included in the 1990 Census).

For the period 1999-2003, Richmond Hill experienced an increase of 5301 new housing units and also an increase of 5560 new households. The Rental Vacancy Rates dropped from 5.7% to 2.3% during the same period and a drop in home ownership of 0.7% from 41.4% to 40.7% was recorded. Only 303 new certificates of occupancy were issued. For the period 1990-2000, the Community board of Richmond Hills saw an increase of 27.2% (32,719) in population (second in NYC only to Jackson Heights also an area popular with the south Asian immigrant community. The NYC average increase rate in population for the period was 9.4%. The average household size increased from 2.84 in 1999 to 3 in 2002. But the percent of severely crowded households (1.5 persons per room) dropped from 5.6% in 1999 to 3.1% in 2002. (NYC HVS) in the same period. 91.1% of the home ownership in the form of conventional homes and the rest (8.9%) are co-operative apartments. 63.8% of the rental housing is unregulated and the average median rent was $800 in 2002 (above the New York Average) with 26.2% of the average income was spent on rent. The average length of tenure dropped from 9.6 in 1999 to 6.7 years in 2002. (Richmond Hill has the one of the lowest average length of tenure in the entire city of New York). 50.8% of the population is composed of immigrant households with 29.5% of the population with less than high school education.

The high percentage of rise of population without a significant amount of new housing units added justifies the rise in the average household size. However, the drop in the percentage of severely crowded households-, which is calculated in persons per room, suggests that there is further compartmentalization of existing housing units (existing units are subdivided or rooms are subdivided to add more rooms in the same space). The addition of more units with no increase in services has reduced the quality of housing in this neighborhood. The rents have remained high owing to the unusually high (91.1% of conventional housing) and the high percentage of unregulated apartments. The high rents and low housing quality has led to the low tenure periods of tenants at Richmond Hill.

How do these figures affect us? Immigrants from the Himalayas are the newest immigrants from the South Asians. Owing to their background of cultural ties with India as well as their affinity to various forms of Indian culture — in the form of cuisine, love for Indian movies and various other reasons tend to reside in areas near the Asian Indian communities. Immigrants from our areas have concentrated in the areas of Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria, Steinway, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.

Hence, Queens has become the home of most of these people. Immigrants are flocking into areas which are already overcrowded. They pay rents at market rates. Homeownership is rare and the options of public housing have not been looked into yet.

The data for this article was collected by CHHAYACDC based on the NYC Census data. Chhaya CDC is a not for profit which looks into the housing needs of the south asian population of New York City. Chhaya CDC , the Tibetan Community of New York and New Jersey, the Tibetan Womens Association and Migyul have been working on a creating a needs assessment survey of the Tibetan immigrant population. (Members of Migyul, the Tibetan Community, Tibetan Women's Association and Chhaya CDC)