Panelists Discuss Fixing New York City’s Housing Problem


With New York City’s population expected to grow to 9 million people in the next 25 years, panelists at a recent Crain’s panel discussion strategized over ways to improve the number of housing options for city residents. In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio implemented the “Housing New York” plan which set forth regulations to improve New York City’s affordable housing market. One of the strategies of the plan was to legalize basement apartments to provide additional housing for residents. Another strategy of the plan was to move tenants into appropriate sized units. Since 2014, the proposals have taken a backseat to other policy objectives.

The panel discussed both strategies in greater detail as a fix for the lack of New York City housing. While the city has made great strides in building large buildings near transit hubs, panelists described that there are current paths to increasing the number of apartments on the market. Jerilyn Perine, head of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, stated that by creating a path to legalizing basements in small homes across the five boroughs, anywhere from fifty to one-hundred-thousand apartments could be put into the market place.

Additionally, panelists stressed that the current New York City apartments are disproportionately appropriated to the number of occupants. As an example, studios account for only 7% of the city’s dwellings, but a third of households are home to a single occupant. Because of the lack of studio apartments, single residents are forced to compete with families for larger apartments. Dividing or creating buildings may be a fix to this issue, however New York City’s 500-square-foot minimum for apartments poses a major difficulty with this recommendation.

Nearly one-half of the city’s dwellings are made up of rent-regulated units. Occupants of these units are often tenants who could live in smaller units but don’t see any benefit in moving because of their below-market-rate-rents. Tenants are unable to afford to move out of these larger apartments. While the New York City Housing Authority has the right to move tenants into appropriately sized apartments for them, they rarely act on their authority.

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