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Paying Rent

Official Government Report: It’s Damn Near Impossible to Find an Apartment in NYC

So far, the official government position has been to do jack shit about it.

1:30 PM EST on February 9, 2024

A close-up of a row of apartment buildings.

(Aleks Marinkovic / Unsplash)

Just how bad is the housing crisis in this town? New York City's housing vacancy rate is 1.4 percent, the lowest it has been since the City started this survey of housing availability in 1968.

These new figures come courtesy of the latest New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, which is conducted every three years by the City's Department of Housing and Preservation.

In their release accompanying the study, HPD plainly states that "New York City’s supply of available housing simply cannot keep up with the demand to live here."

According to the survey, which was conducted from January through June of 2023, there were just 33,210 units available for rent out of a total stock of 2,357,000.

Unsurprisingly, the survey found, the poorer you are, the tougher it is to find an affordable place to live, with "affordability" categorized as paying 30 percent or less of your income on rent.

"The net rental vacancy rate remained extremely limited at the lowest rent levels," the report states. "For units renting for less than $1,100 (the bottom quartile of rents in 2023), it was 0.39 percent. For units renting for $1,100 to $1,649 (the second quartile), it was 0.91 percent."

Notably, the last time the survey was conducted in 2021, the vacancy rate was a record-high 4.54 percent thanks in large part to the pandemic. But according to the survey, the availability of apartments for less than $1,649/month were "statistically the same" as they are today.

HPD's press release states that the survey is "used to determine the continued need for rent control and rent stabilization." If that's true: Where do our most powerful elected officials stand on passing the strong tenant protection bills—i.e. Good Cause Eviction—that have stalled in Albany for more than a year?

In the release, Mayor Eric Adams states that "we need more tools to house our neighbors, protect tenants, and deliver the affordability New Yorkers deserve," but he has been cagey on whether he supports Good Cause Eviction. In December, Adams told Crain's that he'd support a deal that included Good Cause and a renewal of tax breaks for developers like 421-a. But earlier this month during a visit to Albany, Adams told state lawmakers that he'd support "a version of tenant protection."

Adams doesn't really hold that many cards here. The players are the leaders of the state legislature—Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins—and Governor Kathy Hochul. Heastie and Stewart-Cousins both back tenant protections, though only Stewart-Cousins has said explicitly that she supports a deal with Good Cause in it.

Governor Hochul has basically eschewed tenant protections altogether, and insisted that the only way out of the housing crisis is to build more housing, and entice communities to make it easier to do so.

"Here's what I know: Spending more money, or insisting on new regulations will not get us out of the deep hole dug by decades of inaction, or overcome the lack of courage to do simply what is required," Hochul said during her State of the State address last month. "Already, New York has vastly more regulated housing stock than any other states, but it still hasn't meant more homes for people. And that's where the status quo has failed. It's a Band-Aid when we need reconstructive surgery."

On Friday, Hochul used the vacancy report as a news peg to trumpet the 5,300 units of housing being built with her own personally-guaranteed 421-a breaks in Gowanus, 1,400 of them "affordable." Her release does not mention anything about tenant protections.

"New Yorkers are facing the lowest vacancy rates in six decades while costs continue to rise—they can’t afford to wait for solutions to the housing crisis," Hochul said in an accompanying statement. "The only way to fix this crisis is to build our way out, and until we have a statewide solution, I will keep working to give Mayor Adams and leaders across our state the tools they need to let them build."

Also unmentioned in the governor's release: a bill sponsored by Brooklyn State Assemblymember Emily Gallagher and Harlem State Senator Cordell Cleare to create a state housing authority to create "social housing" divorced from rapacious profit motives.

You can read the whole housing survey here.

Oh, gee, here's an interesting chart:

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