The Real Deal New York

NYC in danger of becoming “a gated community”

Development experts riff on the city’s affordable housing crisis

February 18, 2015 03:06PM
By Brendan O'Connor

From left: Jack Nyman and Vicki Been

From left: Jack Nyman and Vicki Been

Rent costs are a severe burden for a third of New Yorkers, and the city is at risk of becoming a gated community unless it can solve its affordability crisis, housing experts said at a conference this morning.

“The number one expense for New Yorkers,” said Jack Nyman, executive director of the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute and the organizer of the Implementing Affordable: New York’s Affordable Housing Crisis conference, said on Wednesday, “is living.”

Addressing a packed conference room at Baruch College — across the street from where, a fortnight ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his state of the city address — Nyman said that New York City is in danger of losing its character. Referring to the 70,000 people who applied for 38 affordable units in Williamsburg in December, Nyman said that the city is at risk of becoming “a gated community.”

NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, the keynote speaker at the conference, said that 56 percent of New Yorkers are “rent-burdened,” and for one-third of New Yorkers, the problems were severe.

“For these families, the affordable housing crisis is not an abstraction,” she added.

The de Blasio administration’s plan to tackle the issue will require $8.2 billion in city capital and funds, Been said, adding that the city already invested $400 million in 2014 alone. That $400 million had also been used to leverage private investments at a ratio of 8:1, she said.

HPD set a goal of financing 16,000 affordable units last year — a goal it exceeded by almost 1,400 units, Been, formerly the director of NYU’s Furman Center, said. “Our progress to date shows that our goals are not only ambitious, but doable,” she said. “They’re bold, not crazy.”

De Blasio has called for the city to ramp up new construction. To act on this, Been said that the HPD is “looking high and low across the five boroughs for land on which to build. “We’re looking for land wherever it is, under every railroad track” she said. But, “we’re not just plopping down buildings,” she said. “We’re also building neighborhoods.”

Franklin Avenue in East New York

Franklin Avenue in East New York

To that end, HPD has formed a new office, the Office of Neighborhood Strategies, which deputy HPD commissioner Daniel Hernandez said was dealing with neighborhood residents’ concerns of displacement in the face of increased density. The HPD has taken some stick for its initial forays into Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, some residents of which see the city’s development efforts as a mechanism of gentrification. “Getting into neighborhoods, we’re not great at,” Hernandez acknowledged. “But we’re great about getting the word out.”

“The concerns aren’t about housing,” another panelist, Howard Slatkin, deputy executive director of strategic planning for the Department of City Planning, added. “It’s about the implication of the housing.”

Nyman was cautiously optimistic about New York’s ability to tackle the affordability crisis. “The mayor is focusing his administration to preserve affordable housing as a precious component of this city,” he told The Real Deal. “Will the goal, if it is met, be effective at bridging the gap?” he asked, referring to the mayor’s 200,000 number. “Only time will tell.”

  • marknroses

    Agreed very much and this is true. But at this rate the city will become gated for only the lucky poor and privileged rich classes with no middle class to support vital industries.

    Very important that the city up zone areas with existing transit infrastructure and find some additional capital for expanding the mass transit system between Queens, and Brooklyn (i.e. East River + 60th Street tolls)

    • Wizardlywillowwisp

      The “lucky poor”? What planet are you from? Maybe you should trade places with them.

      • marknroses

        Poor people who are lucky to have affordable housing from tax subsidies (see housing lotteries for 50 units and 50,000 applicants). Not enough is being done to promote affordable housing for the middle class. Is that not noble enough for you?

    • AnoNYC

      Congestion pricing is necessary for several reasons to help expand and improve existing mass transit.

      A huge swath of the city with great potential for redevelopment is the Third Ave corridor in the Bronx. Geographically close to Midtown but very limited development and numerous underutilized properties north of East 163rd St. This area is begging for a subway again. Much easier to zone dense there too.

      We should also fill in public housing development super blocks.

  • SocialismWins

    This is a government-created problem. Too much tinkering by busy-body politicians. More government will only make things worse, not better. Nothing will ever change. Either accept this city for what it is or move.

    • Marc

      If the commies downtown want to see “affordable” housing then stop interfering in the marketplace. It will fix all problems eventually and much better and far cheaper than some Marxist mayor.

      • AnoNYC

        I’m sure the wealthy will be more than happy to house the poor. Totally unrealistic.

    • Char4Dew

      Oh…………. and REBNY had nothing to do with it… sure, sure!
      They lobied for what is….

  • john

    Or a big bulls-eye

  • Edward Johnson

    These stats are garbage. If we want to see if people can afford their rent then take their share of the rent and divide it by their total income. That’s what we’re trying to measure. But this agenda driven non-sense skews the data.

    If someone makes $12,000 yr but we pay 80% of their rent with section 8 and their roommate gives them half the rent then these people aren’t in danger of anything. They are getting paid to live there.

    Let’s use real data. How much are people’s total income. Let’s count subsidies welfare, food stamps, roommate support etc. Why wouldn’t you include these amounts?

    Let’s also only consider how much rent the tenant really pays.
    If 4 people share the apartment why would take the entire rent and divide it by one person’s income? And if a tenant’s rent is $1,000 but section 8 pays $800 of that amount, then why don’t we use the $200 amount that the tenant actually pays?

    If we want to see if people can pay their rent then the obvious formula is to take how much their share of the rent is and divide it by how much money they bring in from all sources.

    • jmb13

      This isn’t just about low class subsidies. It needs to focus on those that work hard to bring in a fair amount of income but STILL CAN’T afford to live here as well.

      • Edward Johnson

        this is about skewed data to sell an agenda –
        the median income in NYC is $60k/yr. You can find 2 bedroom apartments all over the city for less than 30% of that income. A single person making the median income can afford to live in a 2 bedroom by themselves and still pay less than 30% of their income.

        Two people who each make minimum wage can easily afford to share a one bedroom together. Etc etc.

        You’re problem is that you want to live in a neighborhood you can’t afford.

        • a

          How are you reaching that conclusion? 30% of a 60k/yr income is 18k. 18k over 12 months is 1,500/month. And that’s PRE-TAX. I’d like to see you try to find 2brs “all over the city” for 1,500/month. Hell, I’d settle for 1brs “all over the city” for that price. And I’m not talking about luxury buildings, I’m talking about the 500 or less sqft 5th floor walk-ups. Find a list of those and put a link up right here.

          • Edward Johnson

            Craigslist currently has ads for 4,566 apartments with at least two bedrooms and a rent of no more than $1,500. You just don’t have the facts correct.
            And these are units that are renting at market rates. Half of the units in NYC are rent stabilized and rent for less (and often way less) than market rates. AND there are hundreds of thousands of government subsidized units and section 8 vouchers etc.

          • Charles Dale

            Studio apts. in Rego Park where I live are going for minimum $1,200 a month. This article is SPOT ON there is VERY LITTLE AFFORDABLE housing in New York. I googled median income for New York City and it said $51,100 a year. That means you would qualify for $1,277.50 a month rent. That is what HALF of ALL New York City residents qualify for and there are VERY LITTLE apts. available for $1,277.50 a month or less. In all the 5 boroughs you will be HARD PRESSED finding anything for that price that is decent. There are people in homeless shelters with jobs that are there because they can not find affordable housing. This has been a problem in New York for years.

          • Marc

            People that cannot find a place to afford in NYC don’t live in Cuba or The People’s Republic of China. They have choices. Texas is growing jobs at a pace that can only be described as dizzying and thanks to a comparatively “hands off” government good housing is available much cheaper relative to incomes. There are thousands of places people can move to in this great country. We don’t need Marxists to “fix” anything and destroy our economy in the process. Keep markets relatively free and the problems will fix themselves in the marketplace without soaking taxpayers.
            Don’t people ever learn?

          • Charles Dale

            There are elderly people that live in the building complex that I am in that can only afford to live where they have for the past 40 years because they have rent stabilized apartments and are on SCRIE. They have little savings and rely on Social Security for their only income and that averages $1,200 a month. None of them have the money to move to Texas or elsewhere and they know no one in other states and would not be hired due to their age. The expense of moving to another state and the physical effort it requires and them being old and do not know anyone anywhere else and do not know anything about Texas or any other state. For them to move to another state would be impractical.

            Hands on government regarding rent stabilization and SCRIE are what is able for them to afford living where they do for most of their life. Without these government programs, where would they live? Where could they qualify to afford to live?

            Here is an article about how things are SO much better in LA and other parts of California since rent control laws came about and how much WORSE it was BEFORE rent control laws came about there.

            LA Rent: Has rent control been successful in Los Angeles?

            http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/09/12/45988/la-rent-has-rent-control-been-successful-in-los-an/

            THIS is what is WAS like BEFORE Rent Control laws.

            Gross helped campaign to bring rent control to West Hollywood and Los Angeles decades ago. He says as unaffordable as the rental market is now, it’s still an improvement over what the market was like in 1970’s, before rent control.

            “It was a crisis situation,” remembers Gross. “Speculators had found L.A., buying apartment buildings and turning them over. People were receiving three, four, and five rent increases per year.”

            So for those that say rents would not be so high if there were no Rent Control laws in place because those apartments would be added to the free market bringing down rents, NO WAY JOSE! The rents would be HIGH for all apartments INCLUDING the ones that would be added to the free market.

            Here in New York, they do not really build rentals anymore. They build LUXURY CONDOS that cost $500,000 and up just for a closet sized apt. This is what the free market is doing. No one is building AFFORDABLE housing anymore for the senior citizens on fixed incomes, the disabled and the middle class that makes $50,000 a year and under. None of these people can afford these prices. We desperately NEED Rent Control so at least about 1 million apts. in New York are somewhat affordable. Housing prices are HIGH EVERYWHERE! Where do the senior citizens go? Where do the disabled go? Where does the middle class go? All anyone cares about is MONEY. We made money our god. We are ALL GREEDY! It does not have to be this way but it is. Shame on us ALL!

          • Char4Dew

            Nice? not!!!
            … so you rather see people end up in states like Texas where where they do not know a soul, because the place they call home is being taken over by greed…not economy, just greed….so you can charge 20K a month rent and make a hefty commission.

          • Crian Bashman

            When I want to make a credible argument the first source I go to is Craigslist.

          • a

            Seriously, craigs list? You really have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. First of all, how many of those 4,566 apartments are duplicates? How many are bait and switches? I work in real estate, and study markets all day long for a living, and I’m telling you, you really don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. That anyone could argue that apartments are reasonably affordable for normal people in NYC is simply a farce. Where are you getting your data?

            Oh yeah, craigs list.

          • Edward Johnson

            If you work in real estate then you understand the numbers they use are garbage. They ignore all revenues/sources of income and they ignore every subsidy. The problem isn’t nearly as widespread/severe as they claim.

          • a

            You’re not understanding. Middle class people don’t get subsidies! They don’t qualify for them. If your entire argument is based on subsidies and section 8, then you’ve missed the point entirely.

          • Edward Johnson

            The article claims 56% of NYers are rent burdened. It’s a lie.

          • BKESTHER

            Unless you are for even more subsidies, I guess it’s still a burden.

          • jmb13

            Craigslist?! That’s your source? Craigslist has the most over posted listings and scams out of ANY NYC Listing database. Your facts are anything but correct.

        • a

          Furthermore, minimum wage in the city is (currently) $8/hr. So based on a 40 hr work wk, that’s $320/wk (PRE-TAX). 2 People living together make a combined monthly income of $2,560 at that rate (again PRE-TAX). 30% of that income would be $768 (yet again, PRE-TAX). In what universe are people finding a 1br apt in NYC, in ANY neighborhood, for $768/month or less? Again, please find me a list and put it up here.

        • If the city would invest in infrastructure, public safety, schools, parks and services in the neighborhoods where all these low cost apartments are located, it would be a totally acceptable to suggest people should live there. But that’s not what is happening. The city and state agencies like the MTA are pouring resources into a few select places leaving the rest of the city to rot. Manhattan is being ringed by beautiful expensive new parks while parks farther out have overgrown weeds and rusty equipment. Schools outside of the few upper class white neighborhoods in Brooklyn are failing. Despite the all time reduction in crime, there are still plenty of places that are unsafe after dark. You want people to move into these other less expensive neighborhoods? Then get the city and MTA to commit resources to them to make them as nice, safe, and convenient as expensive neighborhoods.

          • AnoNYC

            There is a disproportionate amount of spending in the Manhattan CBD but you’re exaggerating the rest. I live in the Bronx and the quality of parks here and in Upper Manhattan is excellent, there have been mass transit improvements and other investments from city agencies.

            The CBD is best funded because it is the most heavily used area of the city, and brings the most revenue.

        • Gina

          You are dreaming if you think someone can rent a NYC on an income of 60K a year when the average one bedroom is over 3K/mo…not good at math, huh? The formula for qualifying is that you must make 40X the rent…so you must show 120K to qualify for a 3K one bedroom.

          • Edward Johnson

            Gina – you don’t have a good grasp of the boundaries of NYC

          • Gina

            Oh really? I live here. Dummy.

    • Gina

      WHy should people have to live 4 to an apt to afford rent? I should be able to afford my own apartment if I am working full time.

      • Marc

        So who should “fix” that for you? It’s your decision how much you make. It’s your decision where to work & where to live. This is not Cuba. Want an apartment just for yourself and you don’t make enough to live in NYC? MOVE. Don’t ask me and all the taxpayers to subsidize you. I wanted to live better but stay in the city but that wasn’t for me possible so 2 decades ago I left. I went somewhere else ,started over & was able to buy my first home almost entirely with cash. Today I own a number of buildings and now very able to come to the city whenever I choose but I almost never do. I have a fulfilling happy life outside of doucheville. Stop being a baby

        • Gina

          Did you read the article you pompous jerk? When only the rich can afford to live in the city, it loses its character…which is the concern here…heard of artists? Heard of writers? Heard of musicians? Heard of service workers, waiters, waitresses, hotel clerks and millions of other people who do not make a lot of money..You would banish them all to Florida or Detroit. Are you just bitter because you left?

          • Edward Johnson

            “When only the rich can afford to live in the city, it loses its character”
            Show me one city in the world where this has happened? Plus, the idea that rich people have no character, no talents, no stories to share is absurd.
            There are 8 million people in NYC – if you think that they are all going to be displaced by the rich you don’t have a good grasp of the number of wealthy people in the world.

          • Gina

            How would you know?You don’t live here.

          • Edward Johnson

            I live in Harlem. If you think one bedrooms in NYC rent for $3,000 then you ignore the one million rent stabilized apartments. You also ignore every one bedroom outside of Manhattan proper and the most prime areas of Brooklyn.
            Perhaps 10% on New Yorkers with one bedrooms pay more than $3k/month for them.
            Just because 10% of people pay more than $3k doesn’t mean our city is unaffordable. We have some many programs in place that help ensure people can afford their rent.
            So for the article to say that 56% are rent burden is a lie. It is a slap in the face to New Yorkers who have done a great job to ensure that our neighbors can afford their rents.

          • Gina
          • Edward Johnson

            Gina – you’re not understanding the concept here. You are comparing apples and oranges.

            Your link has nothing to do with this article. It speaks of all rental apartments, your article speaks of a very small sample. This article claims that 56% of New Yorkers are rent burdened but it ignores important facts.

            Your article discusses vacant market rate apartments. But New Yorkers don’t live in vacant apartments. Half live in rent stabilized apartments. Hundreds of thousands live in public housing. Hundreds of thousands have section 8 vouchers etc etc etc. None of these units are figured into the stats you just posted. In a City with rent controls what people pay for vacant apartments has nothing to do with what most people are actually paying each month.

            In fact, what most pay is closer to $1,200. Sure you can’t find a $1,200 apartment to rent today, but that doesn’t mean most people aren’t paying that amount. Just because you don’t have a subsidy doesn’t mean most New Yokers don’t. Again, this article speaks of all New Yorkers. Section 8 recipients are paying about $300/month for their one beds. Those in housing projects are paying even less.

            What we are trying to figure out is can New Yorkers afford their apartments. How much of all of their revenues are used to pay for their share of the rent.

            This article claims 56% of NYers are rent burdened. It is a lie.

          • Gina

            DO you know offhand the current number of rent subsidized units in New York compared to the total number of apartments?

          • Edward Johnson

            There are 2.1 million rental apartments in NYC –

            There are 300,000 units that are subsidized like housing projects or mitchell lama etc.

            Nearly 1 million are rent stabilized. (note that the average rent for a stabilized unit is $1,150/month. That means that about half of NYers pay $1,150 month in rent. You can see why it’s so ridiculous to claim that 56% of NYers are rent burdened )

            There are about 800,000 free market apartments (and many of them get subsidies like Section 8, welfare, HASA etc).

            Further, many of the market rate apartments are in buildings with fewer than 6 units (meaning they aren’t rent stabilized) and are scattered throughout the boroughs. So these people aren’t paying $4k for an apartment.

            The reality is that there are very few people in NYC who pay north of $2,000/month for an apartment (and significantly fewer who are paying $4,000 as the DNAinfo article suggests).

          • Marc

            Why you so angry? run out of peanut butter for your cat?

          • Gina

            My cat only eats cashew butter….no lowly peanut butter for my baby…

  • Anon resident

    A bunch of fluff. No mention when it came to all the HPD employees arrested and lack of transparency when it comes to code enforcement. No mention of how HPD decides on who their developers are, and how after 47 years L&M Development (Cuomo’s largest donor), ends up with the Essex Street lot.

  • Nathan

    Except gated communities stop outsiders from entering so it’s not quite what it’s becoming.

    • AnoNYC

      Physical gates are not necessary to keep outsiders away.

  • lantham

    Obama’s America : more rich , more poor

  • Wyona Shepherd Essex

    Franklin Avenue is NOT in East New York; it runs through Clinton Hill & Crown Heights.

    It’s become the world’s foremost gentrification laboratory, in a scant few blocks stretch north of Eastern Parkway, saturated with every conceivable obnoxious transplant/hipster stereotype imaginable.

    Like, yaaah…

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