DMI Blog

Amy Traub

Oh, give me a home… (in NYC)

NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy has just released the newest edition of their annual State of New York City's Housing and Neighborhoods report, and guess what? It's getting hard to afford a place to live in the Big Apple.

Last year's report from the Furman Center focused on renters, and found that New Yorkers are spending a higher median share of their income on rent even as the number of apartments available to middle-income New Yorkers is shrinking.

This year's report looked at homeowners, discovering that the combination of stagnating incomes and rising real estate prices have left less than five percent of home sales affordable to would-be buyers who earn the city's median income ($43,434 in 2005).

The report bears out the findings of the Drum Major Institute's own newly-released survey of 101 city leaders, which concluded that affordable rent is a the top challenge the city's middle class faces, while being able to afford to buy a home ranks number three.

And with such a tiny proportion of the city's homes affordable to middle-income buyers, it's no wonder that most respondents in DMI's survey didn't even think homeownership formed part of a middle-class standard of living in the city.

It's one thing to recognize that housing is a problem in New York, and something else to find a way to solve it. DMI's survey found that building more government-funded, permanent affordable housing is perceived by respondents as the single most effective policy to help strengthen and expand the city's middle class. Survey respondents also considered providing tax incentives to private developers to construct more affordable housing extremely effective, although respondents favored stronger accountability standards for developers, such as requirements that units be made permanently affordable if the city offered developers any property tax breaks, public subsidies, or zoning changes that materially enhance the value of their property.

Clearly, there's a broad consensus that building more affordable housing is the answer, and in the words of one anonymous survey respondent "the market alone will never keep housing affordable in a place like New York City where apartments can sell for millions of dollars. The government must be the advocate for those that need affordable housing."

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Posted at 10:26 AM, Apr 14, 2007 in Cities | Housing | Middle-class squeeze | New York
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