May 10, 2016
The NYU Furman Center released its annual State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods (2015). This year’s report focused on gentrification:
“Gentrification” has become the accepted term to describe neighborhoods that start off predominantly occupied by households of relatively low socioeconomic status, and then experience an inflow of higher socioeconomic status households. The British sociologist Ruth Glass coined the term in 1964 to describe changes she encountered in formerly working-class London neighborhoods, and sociologists first began applying the term to New York City (and elsewhere) in the 1970s. Since entering the mainstream lexicon, the word “gentrification” is applied broadly and interchangeably to describe a range of neighborhood changes, including rising incomes, changing racial composition, shifting commercial activity, and displacement of original residents. (4)
The reports main findings are
- While rents only increased modestly in the 1990s, they rose everywhere in the 2000s, most rapidly in the low-income neighborhoods surrounding central Manhattan.
- Most neighborhoods in New York City regained the population they lost during the 1970s and 1980s, while the population in the average gentrifying neighborhood in 2010 was still 16 percent below its 1970 level.
- One third of the housing units added in New York City from 2000 to 2010 were added in the city’s 15 gentrifying neighborhoods despite their accounting for only 26 percent of the city’s population.
- Gentrifying neighborhoods experienced the fastest growth citywide in the number of college graduates, young adults, childless families, non-family households, and white residents between 1990 and 2010-2014. They saw increases in average household income while most other neighborhoods did not.
- Rent burden has increased for households citywide since 2000, but particularly for low- and moderate-income households in gentrifying and non-gentrifying neighborhoods.
- The share of recently available rental units affordable to low-income households declined sharply in gentrifying neighborhoods between 2000 and 2010-2014.
- There was considerable variation among the SBAs [sub-borough areas] classified as gentrifying neighborhoods; for example, among the SBAs classified as gentrifying, the change in average household income between 2000 and 2010-2014 ranged from a decrease of 16 percent to an increase of 41 percent. (4)
The report provides a lot of facts for debates about gentrification that often reflect predetermined ideological viewpoints. The fact that jumped out to me was that a greater percentage of low-income households in non-gentrifying neighborhoods were rent burdened than in gentrifying neighborhoods. (14-15)
This highlights the fact that we face a very big supply problem in the NYC housing market — we need to build a lot more housing if we are going to make a serious dent in this problem. The De Blasio Administration is on board with this — the City Council needs to get on board too.
Lots more of interest in the Furman report — worth curling up with it on a rainy afternoon.