What’s Up With My Rent: Your NYC Housing Cheat Sheet


The distribution of rental units according to price in New York City over time. NYC Comptroller

The distribution of rental units according to price in New York City over time. NYC Comptroller

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio unveiled his vision for a more affordable New York City–the mayor’s 10-year, 200,000-affordable unit plan calls for building more new developments, increasing density in neighborhoods along strong transit corridors (like Atlantic, Fulton and Pitkin Avenues in Brooklyn) upping the ratio of subsidized to market rate units in new developments, and preserving rent controlled units and creating incentives, like tax breaks and building upgrade assistance, for landlords to keep rents low. Here are a few key points:

  • Mayor de Blasio referred to the plan as the most ambitious affordable housing plan ever undertaken by a major U.S. city. Not everyone agrees with this. Greg David, resident contrarian at Crain’s New York, says that the plan misses the point that there needs to be more new construction period. Before the financial crisis in 2008 the city issued permits for 34,000 new units. Last year, the highest since 2008, about 18,000 permits were issued.
  • Stephen J. Smith, writing for Next City, further deconstructs the plan, saying that of the 200,000 affordable units, 80,000 are to be new construction, while 120,000 are to be “preserved.” He compares the cost to build a new unit, $380,000, to the cost to preserve a rent-controlled unit, $90,000 and asks why the emphasis isn’t on regulation, rather than construction, since it’s so much cheaper.
  • The plan calls for studies to find neighborhoods that can accommodate rezoning and greater population density. Mireya Navarro and Vivian Yee at The New York Times went to East New York, where the mayor has his eye on Pitkin Avenue as a potential site for development. They found that people there are open to new buildings, so long as they result in construction jobs for locals, and that they don’t tower 10 or 20 stories above the rest of the neighborhood.
  • As many articles have pointed out, the growth rate that Mayor de Blasio is aiming for will increase the housing stock by about 5%–the same as during the Bloomberg years. However, Bloomberg essentially encouraged development with the idea that the free market would sort out the rest, while de Blasio is creating more aggressive regulations for new development, perhaps most importantly, proposing many, many more units priced for the poorest New Yorkers, like a family of four making $25,000 and under. In the last American city with a real commitment to the public housing system, with some of the most marked income inequality in the country, and with long waiting lists for apartments and repairs in NYC public housing, this is a pretty important element to the plan.

Here are a few more recent articles about New York’s eternal struggle with affordable housing.

And to end with a bit of statistically irrelevant, personal observation, I was at a dinner party with a couple who have lived in Brooklyn for more than 10 years, both separately and together, last weekend and as renters in Greenpoint with a young son, they are looking at Cypress Hills to buy. So yes, a sample size of one says that the early gentrifiers of North Brooklyn are willing to move further out, a la de Blasio’s sights on East New York. However, they were looking there at houses with yards, not white boxes in shiny towers, like the buildings along the Williamsburg waterfront and the 40-story towers coming to Greenpoint.

The notion of creating incentives for landlords to keep rents lower is to me, a compelling one. My three-unit building is not eligible for rent-stabilization. I’ve like to think that our very nice, very reasonable landlords could get a tax break, or could have the city make the building greener, in exchange for agreeing on a rent freeze for a certain period of time (and that they’d be amenable–I’m not sure they’re the solar panel types). There are plenty of small buildings, owned by individuals and families, not management companies, and to offer them a tax break or some other incentive to keep rents reasonable seems like yes, a bureaucratic way to address rising rents. But side by side, preserving or returning one unit to affordable status–whatever that means in Brooklyn these days–through deals with small property owners, deals which could also make the city more environmentally sound, has got to be cheaper than subsidizing new construction.

Finally, Memorial Day Weekend, one of the single biggest moving weekends of the year is coming up. A friend who recently moved hired movers off of craigslist, instead of using my favorite movers got totally ripped off, and they damaged a few of his belongings. These guys at Zarik Inc. have moved me four times now, and if I buy furniture from craigslist I call them, too. They’re really good at what they do. Really good. I have one of the tightest stairways I’ve ever seen and they have successfully carried all my heavy vintage furniture up it. And, they lost a truck during Sandy, which really set them back, and they’re reasonably priced and easy to work with. Email them contact@cheapmovingny.com  or call 718-238-8549, I’m serious you won’t regret it.

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