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The 2009 American Community Survey showed that while the total population of Washington Heights and Inwood stayed almost steady over the past decade, the Hispanic population declined by almost 7 percent—from 154,414 in 2000 to 143,692 in 2009.

Over the same period of time, the non-Hispanic population of these neighborhoods has gone up by almost 20 percent—from 54,000 in 2000 to 64,523.

"What’s worth noting is that even though rents have gone up here, they are still way below what people living below 125th Street, for instance, are encountering," Perry says.   

Residents and community leaders say that a failure to provide adequate housing assistance could force tenants to either accept higher rents even when unjustified (like in rent-stabilized apartments), or move out, possibly to cheaper neighborhoods in the Bronx.

That is a fear frequently discussed by those who queue up early in the morning outside the Washington Heights and Inwood Coalition, curled up in blankets, in between bouts of fitful sleep.

"Landlords want people who can pay more rent, and we aren’t those people," said Perdomo, as she waited for the clock to turn 9 a.m. "We could lose our neighborhood."