Why the Rent Is So High in New York

By CATHERINE RAMPELL

In a magazine piece this week (and accompanying blog post), I talked about why many of the goods and services that high-income people consume are cheaper in New York — because it has such a large concentration of high-income people. I also mentioned that the big, glaring exception to this is housing, which is expensive for rich people as well as poor people.

So why is housing so expensive here, and getting even more so?

There are a few reasons. One is that New York has become a much more attractive place to live and work over the last few decades as crime has fallen and other amenities have improved. So demand for apartments here is up — and not just among people who live here full time.

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When ‘Affordable’ Is Just a Word

By 

The spring has the real-estate press enthusiastically reporting on the construction of 432 Park Avenue, an apartment tower that its developers claim will be the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere. Apartments in the tower, designed by Rafael Viñoly and to be completed in 2015, are offered in the $20 million to $80 million range, which in the context of Ludicrously Priced Housing for Oligarchs Who Spend Most of the Year in Tax Exile on Mediterranean Yachts isn’t as numbing as it might otherwise be. Such is the historical moment that a few blocks west, in another glass tower, called One 57, apartments have sold in the past year for more than $90 million.

Barbara Cortijo and her sons, Joel, left, and Jomar, live in affordable housing in the Bronx.

Given these perversions, it is hard to understand what affordable housing means in New York, in one sense because the market doesn’t really abide it, and in another because the phrase itself in policy terms has become so amorphous.

Just as shocking, arguably, as the $44 million four-bedroom duplex in TriBeCa that turns up in the real estate listings of The New York Times is the $1,400-a-month, two-bedroom rental apartment in the Belmont section of the Bronx. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which calculates what it calls the housing wage— the earnings necessary to pay no more than 30 percent of your income on rent, the threshold usually used to define affordable housing — you would need to make $26.92 an hour, or $56,000 a year, to afford the apartment. If you held a minimum-wage job, a likely circumstance in a neighborhood where the poverty rate is 43 percent, twice the city’s on the whole, and median household income is just over $22,000, you would have to work 149 hours a week to meet the cost. Alternatively, you could clone yourself 2.7 times.

As it happens, affordable housing was the subject of a mayoral forum last week at New York University. Democratic candidates all expressed the view that despite the Bloomberg administration’s ambitious and lauded affordable housing program — which has financed the preservation and construction of 165,000 units of low-, moderate- and middle-income housing — the city, at a time of record homelessness, soaring rents and stagnating wages, needs to do more and needs to generate affordable housing that is actually affordable.

Two months ago, a report issued by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a consortium of neighborhood housing groups, indicated that out of the 38,670 units developed by the Bloomberg housing plan from 2009 to 2011, only one-third of them were economically within reach of households making the median income or less for the typical household in their neighborhood. Of the units the city developed over the same period, only about 8 percent were intended for households making less than 40 percent of the metropolitan area’s median income, though they make up nearly one-third of all New York City households.

Another dimension to all this is what Alex Schwartz, a professor of urban planning at the New School, likens to a bathtub with a running faucet and an open drain. As the city builds new units of affordable housing, old units age out of the system. Much of the affordable housing isn’t meant to be affordable forever simply because it isn’t financially feasible, so rents go up, tax breaks expire and units nudge toward market rate. Last week, the housing development association issued new data indicating where existing affordable housing had disappeared or was threatened. In the University Heights section of the Bronx, 5,000 units of housing from 2008 to 2011 became unaffordable, with rents requiring incomes of more than 80 percent of the area’s median income.

The New York City Housing Authority, where the average monthly rent as of this year is $436, offers permanent affordability, of course, but there are currently more than 167,000 families on its waiting list (and more than 123,000 families on a waiting list, now closed, for Section 8 federal housing vouchers, which have had their financing reduced by sequestration). One partial solution to clearing the backlog would be to relocate older residents living alone in large apartments in public housing to smaller ones and give over two- and three-bedroom apartments to the families who need them. “It isn’t all that complicated,” Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and a Democrat, said at the candidates’ forum, “even though it isn’t happening.”

Creating actual affordable housing, buildings that can pay for themselves in the absence of growing subsidies, will be a formidable challenge for the next mayor. John C. Liu, a Democratic candidate, proposes to do it with what he calls the People’s Budget, which he unveiled last week and which includes $27 million in housing vouchers for the homeless and $3.7 billion in capital funds to help create 100,000 units of affordable housing over a four-year period. He would finance these and other ambitions through tax increases on those making more than $1 million a year, charging rents to charter schools using city facilities and taxing private equity firms’ carried interest, to cite a few examples.

Advocates and analysts in the affordable housing world have talked about addressing some of this difficulty by cross-subsidizing buildings, a process that would have a mixed-income building in the Bronx, for instance, helping to offset the costs of a primarily low-income building in Brooklyn. I would propose another form of cross-subsidization called the You Don’t Need to Live in a $50 Million Penthouse Tax, which would require anyone buying a property for more than $10 million (of which there are currently about 280 listed in The Times) to pay a percentage of that cost to an affordable-housing fund. And then commit, in writing, to never complain about it.

Source: The New York Times

Rent and the Single Girl

 

 

Posted: March 07, 2013

 

First came Helen Gurley Brown’s “Sex and the Single Girl.”

Then there was Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City.”

Now, we have Hannah Horvath on HBO’s “Girls.”

When will someone get around to what single women in New York really obsess about: a nice apartment in a decent neighborhood at an affordable price?

Today, more than 725,000 never-married women between the ages of 20 and 34 call Gotham home. Many have come here because they believe New York is the place to be. Especially for those just starting out, many quickly learn that life in the big city can mean sharing an East Bushwick apartment with three strangers because it’s the only place you can afford.

If New York’s high prices simply reflected the true market value, that would be one thing. After all, people have been finding roommates to split the rent for years. But the truth is that the young and unestablished are paying more than they should for their apartments, because the rental market and rental prices are being distorted by rent-control and rent-stabilization policies.

Rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments are a sweet deal for those who are in on it — mostly older and more established residents. So the wealthy retiree has every reason to cling to his rent-stabilized pad on Central Park South forever. Meanwhile, the young, the new arrivals and often the less-wealthy are out of luck.

Lena Dunham in “Girls”

These people pay in two ways: First, they have fewer apartments to choose from, because rent control and rent stabilization effectively take a million apartments off the market. According to the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, that’s nearly half the total rentals.

Second, the price of artificially lower rents in the regulated sector becomes artificially higher rents in the unregulated sector.

It’s not just single New York women, of course. It’s anyone looking for a place to live here. And so we have a familiar tale: laws promoted as helping average folk actually hurting them.

That’s worth keeping in mind as mayoral candidate after mayoral candidate prattles on about “affordable housing.” Almost always their answer is more of the same interference from government that has created this problem in the first place.

So as HBO gets ready for the Season 2 finale of “Girls,” we’re hoping someone might consider a series showing why, for so many women here, finding a decent, affordable apartment is more difficult than finding a faithful, self-supporting boyfriend.

 

Source: New York Post

Upper West Side and Lower East Side Historic Districts Will Increase Costs and Raise Rents in Hundreds of Rental Buildings

East Village–Lower East Side Historic District approved by Landmarks

October 09, 2012 03:30PM

The Landmarks Preservation Commission today approved slightly modified version of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District, according to a press release issued by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The territory covers 330 buildings across 15 blocks bounded by Avenue A and the Bowery and St. Mark’s Place and 2nd Street.

According to the release, the historic district was expanded to include structures such as the Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 59 East 2nd Street and the Magistrate’s Court at 32 Second Avenue, which now operates as the Anthology Film Archives.  As Crain’s reported earlier today, other structures in the district include the firmer Fillmore East concert venue and the German Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The landmarking came as an effort made by preservation groups to preserve the character of the East Village. The decision comes as NYU will expand its campus just west of the district. — Zachary Kussin

 

 

City Council approves UWS historic district

October 04, 2012 

 

The City Council’s Landmarks committee has approved an expansion of the Upper West Side’s historic district. The district will expand to include blocks between Broadway and Riverside Drive, between 79th and 87th streets. It is one of several proposed expansions of the historic districts on the Upper West Side. The City Council, in a full vote, is expected to approve the expansion, okayed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, as well.

Property owners within the district will now have to get changes to their buildings approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city agency that deals with renovations and changes to landmarked buildings, as well as designates landmarks and historic districts.

 

Source: The Real Deal

High rents hitting middle-class New Yorkers

“Here’s a new twist on the affordability scale: middle-income renters have greater affordable housing issues than low-income renters! Tell that to the low-income housing advocates. I guess the affordability issue doesn’t die until everyone gets a subsidy. “ 

              – Jack Freund, Executive Vice President, Rent Stabilization Association 

(Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the RSA.)

 

High rents hitting middle-class New Yorkers

Families in the middle squeezed the most over the last decade, according to a new study.

By Tania Karas

Skyrocketing rents are increasingly squeezing middle-class New Yorkers, according to a report released Wednesday by City Comptroller John Liu.

The report shows that almost half of city households spend more than 30% of their income on rent, compared with 26% of households nationally. Federal benchmarks deem rent unaffordable when it exceeds 30% of household income.

Middle-income renters, defined as those earning between $35,000 and $75,000 annually, face the most pressure in Manhattan, where 45% pay rent that is officially “unaffordable.” But even those living in less expensive Staten Island and Queens aren’t much better off. There, 44% of middle-class residents in both boroughs shoulder unaffordable housing costs.

According to the study, 30% of New Yorkers devote more than half their income to rent alone. The high cost of living here is threatening to drive the middle class out of the city, Mr. Liu said.

“Working families should not be forced to leave town or live in inferior housing,” he said. “We need to invest more in affordable housing for middle-income renters so that our city is not only home to the very wealthy and the very poor but also to the vast majority of New Yorkers who fall in between.”

Some 70% of New Yorkers rent their homes, compared with 30% nationally. The vacancy rate of rental housing is 3% in New York City, compared with 10% nationally, and falls to less than 1% at peak times of the year.

The comptroller’s study, titled “Rents through the Roof,” cited census data showing that the high cost of living in the city disproportionately affects middle-income households. Low-income and high-income families don’t face the same pressures. Those earning less than $35,000 can turn to affordable-housing programs, while those in high-income brackets spend a similar percentage of their income on rent as the rest of the U.S.

And relief for the middle class is nowhere on the horizon, the study points out, as New Yorkers continue to face rising rents and record-low vacancy rates. In 2000, 23 of the city’s rental units were unaffordable to middle-income households, but that figure had jumped to 38% in 2010.

Source: Crain’s New York