By Samantha Gardner
Its far worse than anyone thought. New York City’s housing crisis is a crippling reality at the start of 2019. And this crisis is accelerating – with no immediate prospects for slowing down – as low-rent apartment stocks continue to rapidly decline. In fact, CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS can report that U.S. Census Bureau data revealed that more than 400,000 apartments with “affordable” rents of less than $1,000 per month disappeared from the city’s housing inventory between 2000 and 2012 as median rents increased by 75 percent. According to information of New York City’s Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office “the housing affordability gap has not improved, and has actually accelerated since 2014.”
“Between 2005 and 2017, rising rents led to the disappearance of 425,492 apartments renting for $900 or less (in 2017 dollars) from the City’s housing inventory,” said the comptroller’s report. “The largest share of these units—40 percent, or 428,000 apartments—saw their rents increase to between $1,051 and $1,500.” Meanwhile, apartments with rents more than $2,700/month increased by roughly 238,000 units.
And its not the Mayor Bill DeBlasio Administration has not been desperately to curb this humungous problem. It has been struggling to remain on course to build the 300,000 promised units of affordable housing by 2026. Then there is the question of what is exactly “affordable” housing in today’s context with the median income for a family of four in Brooklyn just over $32,000 annually.
This affordable issue has been the resulting impact of a number of factors that have all negatively contributed to the City’s rapidly rising housing costs. First is the city’s housing supply that has not been able to keep up with its population growth. For example, between 2005 and 2016, the City added an estimated 576,000 residents—but a paltry 76,211 net new housing units of occupied rental housing. This automatically triggered sharp rise in housing costs in all five boroughs.
Second contributing factor was the deliberate shift to more middle- and high-priced rentals – especially in rapidly gentrified Brooklyn – that continued erosion in the city’s inventory of rent-regulated housing. “[T]he City lost 88,518 units of rent-regulated housing between 2005 and 2017—more than the entire addition to the stock of occupied rental housing,” said the Comptroller’s report. “More regulated units were removed from the inventory than were added in every year except 2017, when a large number of rental units were stabilized after the renewal of the 421-a program.” [See below].
The DeBlasio Administration has defended its housing policies and claims that its doing all in its power to deal with the crisis. It says that its tackling the crisis aggressively and directly and using every tool available to build new affordable apartments, preserve the ones it has and stop bad landlords in their tracks. The city says in a statement that “since 2014, we have financed 109,767 affordable homes, 40 percent of which are affordable to families making less than $47,000 a year. The key is strengthening state rent laws and we will work aggressively with partners in Albany next session to enact stronger rent laws and eliminate the vacancy bonus.”
Decreasing Number of Affordable, Low-Cost Units
Between 2005 and 2017, rising rents led to the disappearance of over 425,000 apartments renting for $900 or less (in 2017 dollars) from the City’s housing inventory. Over half of these units – 55 percent, or more than 235,000 apartments – saw their rents increase to between $1,051 and $1,650. Apartments renting for over $2,700 per month more than doubled, increasing by approximately 111,000 units.
What is 421-a?
Put simply, the program gives developers a 10-year tax exemption for building a multi-unit residential project on vacant land. But its potential expiration won’t just hit developers—it could affect residents as well. The exemption can also be applied to developers building affordable housing units, but that’s a little more complicated.]