Cities Journal
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New York City Keeps Chasing Cheap Housing

New York City Keeps Chasing Cheap Housing
Photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost / Flickr

Cheap housing is a fantasy that many New Yorkers have long dreamed about. Rent prices in New York remain among the highest in the nation, and even the world, according to the Global Property Guide website. The real estate website reports that the median price for an apartment in Manhattan can be as high as $3,000 per bedroom.

This is a problem that New York City leaders have tried to solve before, but Mayor Bill de Blasio is now tackling the issue with renewed zest. His plan: 200,000 affordable apartments, to be built or preserved over the course of the next ten years. Should he succeed, Mayor de Blasio would actually make more progress than his predecessors, Mayors Bloomberg and Koch, who both had similar initiatives.

Whether or not this goal is realistic remains to be seen, but the New York City housing crisis plays a big role in the “tale of two cities” platform that Mr. de Blasio campaigned on. The city already has 334 housing projects that it struggles to maintain. Federal subsidy programs have been cut in recent years, which makes Mr. de Blasio’s goal even more lofty, and perhaps impossible.

According to an article in the New York Times, the mayor’s plans for affordable housing are multi-faceted. Developers of large residential properties would be required to make units available for low and moderate income tenants. In addition, Mr. de Blasio plans to redirect $1 billion city pension funds for the purpose of constructing or preserving affordable housing. He has also suggested legalizing some basement apartments.

Experts are in dispute as to whether or not 200,000 units can be achieved. Deregulation has led to a serious loss of affordable housing. Former Mayor Bloomberg was able to preserve or create 165,000 units in a 13 year period, but lost 60,000 rent-regulated apartments over the course of his tenure as mayor. In some cases, requiring developers to set aside a percentage of units in new projects for low rent tenants could discourage new development altogether.

Certainly an availability of affordable housing would be a welcome change in New York. If Mayor de Blasio is able to achieve his grand plan, he can expect the support of many voters in the coming months and years.

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