Housing affordability is a critical issue in New York City. Almost half of the city’s residents are hovering around the poverty line and last year, more than half of renters were considered rent-burdened, meaning they spent more than a third of their income on rent.

Artist and programmer Ekene Ijeoma wanted to explore this reality with his interactive art piece “Wage Islands,” an interactive 3D map which reveals which areas offer affordable housing based on the wages of the people who live there. Using median monthly housing cost data from the American Community Survey, Wage Islands combines technology and art to illustrate how access to housing decreases with lower wages

The map is submerged in black water, which represents the areas which are unattainable to people with lower wages. To interact with the exhibit, users can hold down a button to increase wages, which causes portions of the map to rise up and become visible.

In an email to Fusion.net, Ijeoma explained his vision.

“I use data to try and see through the eyes of the people behind the numbers. I also try to find the missed connections between people too. I hope that it’ll raise more empathy around [the] minimum wage fight in NYC,” he wrote.

Ijeoma was inspired by New York Magazine’s “The City and the Storm,” a photo of post-Sandy Manhattan by Iwan Baan. Ijeoma described it as “‘a tale of two cities’; one with lights (above midtown) and one without (mostly downtown). I liked how you didn’t need to know the neighborhoods or streets and intersections to understand it.”

Wage Islands was displayed at the Measure at Storefront for Art and Architecture from August 13th to September 19th.

Follow us @bbhnyc for more news on NYC housing issues.

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