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New York City's Housing Gap: The Road to Recovery


New York City's Housing Gap: The Road to Recovery

Peter D. Salins June 1, 2004
Urban PolicyOtherInfrastructure & Transportation

Executive Summary

New York City continues to experience a housing gap, i.e., an inability to build enough new housing to supply all of its residents with safe housing and to replace dilapidated housing stock.

Estimates of the housing gap made in previous reports have been adjusted downward to reflect the discovery during the 2000 U.S. census of 370,000 new residential addresses that were either built during the 1990s or missed during the original 1990 census. Nonetheless, even adjusting for this windfall, this study finds that the housing gap continued to grow between 1999 and 2002, rising to more than 111,000 units. When the amount of housing needed to replace degraded stock is added to this baseline, the “quality adjusted” housing gap climbs to over 370,000 units.

The core problem facing New York City is that housing production continues to lag well behind population growth, particularly in the outer boroughs. During the period 1999–2002, the housing gap grew by over 51,000 dwellings in Brooklyn; 36,200 in the Bronx; 22,400 in Queens; and 8,700 in Staten Island. Although there is evidence that housing production is trending up (from under 9,000 units in 1999 to over 15,000 in 2002), it is still insufficient to keep up with population increase.

Indeed, compared with its peers among American cities, New York’s housing market is the least advantageous, with one of the oldest and most expensive housing stocks in the nation. There are a number of forces restraining New York’s housing production, but among the most significant are its onerous land-use regulations and excessively high construction costs. This study finds that expanding housing production to adequately meet demand and maintain quality will require:

  • Streamlining the city’s complex zoning regulations
  • Harmonizing the city’s land-use and environmental regulations with those of New York State
  • Modernizing the archaic New York City building code
  • Ending rent regulation