West Harlem Group Assistance, Inc. (WHGA), a community based development corporation, was established more than 45 years ago to revitalize the under-invested West and Central Harlem communities – riddled with dilapidated and abandoned buildings. In the 70s and 80s WHGA’s tenant organizing operation prevented numerous arson attempts by gluttonous slum landlords seeking insurance payoffs. In the late 80’s WHGA began re-building entire blocks which lay so vacant and destitute that even New York’s poorest were only remotely interested in living there.
As the 20th century neared its end, significant community and city based reconstruction had taken place in Harlem. The once infamously barren communities of Harlem were becoming increasingly attractive to the for-profit sector. There was the potential to generate revenue in a rapidly growing neighborhood where land was still relatively inexpensive – compared to neighboring communities on the southern border, known as the Upper West side. In response, WHGA’s primary function has evolved to address the new community needs in the face of rapid gentrification in Harlem’s low to moderate income constituency.
Today Harlem boasts a real estate market beyond comprehension. Renovated historic brownstones, former havens for drug dealers and prostitutes, now carry a minimum asking price of $1.2 million dollars. Two bedroom cooperatives and condominiums average $500 per square foot. Very few of Harlem’s long term residents have the capacity to negotiate in this highly competitive real estate market. Yet WHGA operates on the premise that ownership, in the face of increased marginalization, is the best insurance against displacement. WHGA’s three- year strategic plan, therefore is guided by an ambitious asset building initiative which includes home ownership, enterprise, and education programs which target households earning less than 80% of area median income.
For the segment of the population that do not have the capacity for asset building, there is WHGA’s affordable housing development and preservation agenda that will continue to be a major component of our overall all strategy.
Produced by Fly's Eye Films: flyseyefilms.com
Sponsored by Wells Fargo: wellsfargo.com/com/financing/real-estate/affordable-housing