The Community Service Society has released its Fast Analysis of the 2014 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey which “analyzed just-released U.S. Census Bureau data from the 2014 version of its New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, a survey of 18,000 New Yorkers conducted every three years under contract with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.” The analysis
reveals that rents have risen rapidly, especially in the city’s inner-ring neighborhoods. Rents rose by 32 percent citywide since 2002, even after removing the effect of inflation. The sharpest increases occurred in neighborhoods surrounding the traditionally high-rent area of Manhattan below Harlem. Central Harlem led the way with a shocking 90 percent increase, with Bedford-Stuyvesant second at 63 percent.
The loss of rent-regulated housing to vacancy deregulation is combining with the loss of subsidized housing and with rising rents overall to dramatically shrink the city’s supply of housing affordable to low-income households. Between 2002 and 2014, the city lost nearly 440,000 units of housing affordable to households with incomes below twice the federal poverty threshold.
The study “focused on the rents being paid by tenants who have recently moved. This eliminates the tendency of lower rents paid by long-time tenants to smooth out market changes and mask the changes that affect tenants who are looking for a place to live.” (Slide 3)
This focus somewhat undercuts CSS’ claim that rents in general are rising rapidly because rents for vacancies typically rise much faster than those for existing tenancies. That being said, the study confirms the sense of many that outer-borough neighborhoods are rapidly gentrifying and becoming unaffordable to the households who had historically made their homes there. As CSS indicates, their analysis will certainly be relevant to the debates raging over how to regulate NYC’s housing stock.
It is also relevant to debates over zoning. New York City’s population has grown by almost a million and a half people since 1980. That increase puts a lot of pressure on the cost of housing. Unless, the City comes up with a plan to increase the supply of housing, market pressures will just keep pushing rents higher and higher. Mayor de Blasio is well aware of this, so it will be interesting to see whether the City Council will be on board with plans to increase density throughout the City. Greater density is a necessary component of any affordable housing strategy for NYC.