In order to best serve the low- and middle-income families in New York City struggling to make ends meet thanks to unaffordable housing costs, leaders across the city must rely on the most up-to-date data to guide their policies. That is why a report that was recently released by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is so important: It is the most up-to-date snapshot of the current housing situation in the five boroughs.
The full report covers the initial findings of the 2017 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, which collects representative data on the housing stock. Conducted every three years, the survey is critical to understanding the city’s housing situation, and the 2017 results show an urgent need to continue to create and preserve more affordable housing.
Even though more housing is available in New York than ever before – the total housing stock has risen to record levels – there is still considerable pressure on the housing market that makes it clear that the city is in the midst of a severe affordability crisis, the weight of which is borne mostly by low- and middle-income New Yorkers.
While the citywide vacancy rate sits at 3.63 percent – still far below the 5 percent threshold needed for an official emergency – the vacancy rate is less than 2 percent for lower cost housing and less than 1 percent for housing at the lowest-cost level.
What this means, in real terms, is that securing a quality home at an affordable price is nearly impossible for many families. It also means that the city must continue its efforts to aggressively create new affordable units and preserve those that already do exist, because the data show that there simply are not enough affordable housing units available.
Moreover, more than half of the city’s renters – totaling millions of New Yorkers – are still considered rent-burdened, meaning that they devote more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Although this figure has remained stable, it is too high – and, as rents increase, affordability could further erode.
The good news is that, thanks to the efforts of Mayor de Blasio and HPD, more than 87,000 new affordable apartments have been created since 2014 under the Housing New York plan, which has unlocked billions of dollars of financing for affordable projects in each borough.
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have been able to either keep their existing home or find a new affordable apartment as a result, and that is no small achievement. It means that teachers, firefighters, police officers, and hardworking families of all backgrounds are able to continue to build a life in New York.
But many more are still struggling to find the homes they deserve, and we must devote every resource to changing that.
The city must continue to prioritize the preservation and development of new affordable homes to combat these issues. The latest data shows that the city has accomplished much already – but that more needs to be done to ensure that everyone who wishes to call our great city home can afford to do so.
Jolie Milstein is the President and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH).