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Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing in New York

issue brief

Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing in New YorkThe Surprising Extent of NOAH

October 20, 2015
Urban PolicyNYCHousing
EconomicsIncome Inequality


It is conventional wisdom that New York City is in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis, with rising rents and limited vacancies making it difficult, if not impossible, for households of modest means to live in the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio has responded with a signature initiative to enable and support, via tax abatements and other subsidies, the building of some 80,000 new “permanently affordable” rental units over ten years. This paper examines the extent to which NYC retains “naturally occurring affordable housing” (NOAH) units—apartments that overlap in price with the mayor’s affordability targets but that are currently available and require no additional government investment.

Key Findings

  • About 49,800 NOAH units—including studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments—are likely available in NYC at any given time.
  • NOAH units, which can be found in 42 of NYC’s 55 census-designated neighborhoods, are most abundant in northern Manhattan (Inwood and Harlem) and in outer-borough neighborhoods, such as Astoria, Jackson Heights, East Flatbush, and all of Staten Island.
  • There are likely about 8,800 currently available NOAH units—equal to more than half of the 16,000 subsidized units that Mayor de Blasio has pledged to build—for households with annual incomes as low as 50 percent of NYC’s area median income ($38,850 for a family of three; $30,250 for a single person).