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New York Post


Stringer Misses The 'Supply' Part Of Why Rents Are So High

April 23, 2014

By Nicole Gelinas

In his first big report, new city Comptroller Scott Stringer presents a shocking conclusion: The rent is too damned high.

But why? The basic problem is supply and demand.

And Stringer misses the supply part: New York can’t provide enough housing partly because of its bad housing policies — which he wants to continue.

Since 2000, rents city-wide are up 30 percent, after inflation. Lower-income folks suffer most. In 2000, families earning $20,000 to $40,000 spent a third of income on rent; by 2012, it was 41 percent.

“It is reasonable to expect that if the number of middle- or high-income households in a neighborhood increases, so will average rents and home prices,” Stringer says. Yep; that’s what’s happened in hot areas, from Clinton (rents up 28 percent) to East Harlem (45 percent) and Astoria (34 percent).

It’s the supply side that he gets wrong. First, he says that the regulations that govern rent hikes on 46 percent of city apartments aren’t strong enough, that one of the city’s “most difficult housing challenges in the next decade will be . . . replenishing the pipeline of rent-stabilized housing.”

But regulating rents is one of the worst ways to keep rents down. For one thing, as Stringer’s own data show, regulated rents aren’t that different from unregulated rents in much of the city. In The Bronx, the average stabilized rent was $1,091; the average market rent, $1,169. In Queens, stabilized rents average $1,105; market rents, $1,299. The extra money can be the difference that lets a landlord keep the building in good repair.

Yes, the divide can grow in Manhattan. One Upper West Side brownstone resident can pay $700 while another pays $3,000 for the apartment next door.

But that benefit often doesn’t help the neediest, or even the remotely needy. Nearly 7 percent of rent-stabilized dwellers make $120,000-plus; nearly 24 percent, $70,000-plus.

Public housing, as Stringer notes, makes up more than half of all apartments going for less than $600. In fact, the average monthly rent in NYCHA housing is just $445. We can’t just let public housing deteriorate, as we have for decades. But why should any able-bodied New Yorker enjoy such cheap rents for life, once they’re in the system? Without higher rents in the NYCHA system — in old apartments or new ones — public housing can’t pay for itself.

And it’s unfair to ask other New Yorkers, including poor ones, to pay for some poor New Yorkers’ apartments absent serious public-housing reform, as Stringer (vaguely) suggests.

He also misses some key solutions. First, there’s greater density — especially along mass transit. Building new, taller housing gives the new upper-middle class in Manhattan and Brooklyn a place to live, so they don’t displace as many other tenants.

Second, there’s better transit. We can’t build more or taller housing much of anywhere unless we invest in better ways to get the people from the new housing to Manhattan. Gravesend, Coney Island and Bay Ridge could all be denser, and house more middle-class New Yorkers — but there’s no way to get more people back and forth.

The overall problem is everyone wanting something for nothing. Many longtime tenants, poor or middle-class, like their cheap rents as well as no new building anywhere near them — and no changes to anything else.

Even a mildly affordable city for newcomers needs new construction — above- and underground. Maybe Stringer can talk about that in his next report.

Original Source:



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