On Poverty and Affordable Housing in Williamsburg

Los Sures Executive Director Ramon Peguero (Photo by Carmen Glover via Kings County Politics)

Southside United HDFC, or “Los Sures,” has been rehabilitating buildings for affordable housing in the heavily Latino neighborhood of South Williamsburg since the 1970s. Kings County Politics‘ Stephen Witt speaks to its executive director, Ramon Peguero, about the organization, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.

Peguero, a Dominican Republic native who grew up in NYC, still lives in the same Brooklyn neighborhood he did as a child. He explains that since the organization’s early days, they have turned abandoned buildings into affordable housing units – some 4,000 in total. In addition, the social services department runs a senior center, a food pantry and a hydroponic farm.

While Williamsburg has been known as a gentrification hotspot in recent decades, Peguero dispels the “myth” that the neighborhood has completely transformed to the point that none of its residents seek assistance.

[Peguero] The fact is that Southside United–Los Sures, just this past summer we did a clothing giveaway, and we gave food to 25,000 people that came to our food bank. And every week in our food pantry we see 300 to 400 people. We also assisted in the marketing of the applications for affordable housing units along the Brooklyn waterfront at the site of the old Domino factory. 85,000 people applied with our help.

[Kings County Politics] For how many units of housing?

For 100 units of affordable housing, 85,000 people applied.

Was it very low or low? Or moderate income?

It was low, very low, and moderate income. So it might be 25% really moderate to 60% really moderate. To have 85,000 people apply for 100 units of affordable housing; to have 25,000 people come to Southside Los Sures food pantry looking for produce on a given week has a lot to push back against the notion that the gentrification happening in Williamsburg has eliminated poverty. We need to make that message clear and that poverty exists in Williamsburg. We know our services are needed. Every day we have more people coming to us asking for help. Now that there’s so much money coming into Williamsburg, there’s more in the palms of landlords and there’s more need for protection of the poor.

Peguero goes on to say that when it comes to expanding affordable housing “sometimes it’s not only about the developing of affordable housing. We should re-develop the affordable housing stock we already have.”

Go to Kings County Politics for more on Peguero’s proposals for affordable housing and the rest of the interview.

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