By Steven Spinola
The NYU Furman Center recently released “The State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2014,” a report which analyzes the levels of density across several neighborhoods in NYC over the past 40 years.
Among the report’s findings is that most New Yorkers live in less dense neighborhoods today than they did in 1970.
Another study issued by Columbia University has found that the current unbuilt floor area that our zoning permits cannot accommodate the amount of housing we need to build to meet our growing population, which will have increased by one million by 2040.
The reason for this increase in population and density is simple — New York remains a highly desirable place to live, so people continue to move here.
The Furman Center study provides us with further insight: nearly one million people moved out of New York City between the 70s and 80s, and many of the neighborhoods most heavily affected by that exodus did not recover that lost population.
Instead, the returning and new New Yorkers chose to settle in less-dense neighborhoods, such as Ozone Park, Elmhurst, and others. Because of this, the overall distribution of the city’s density has shifted over the past 40 years.
Between overall population growth and density, however, the surge in New York’s population is what requires immediate attention.
Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau released population figures for 2014, and found that New York City has reached almost 8.5 million people — a number we were not due to reach until 2020.
This revelation in population figures puts added pressure on our existing housing supply which already has a vacancy level below five percent.
This problem can be remedied in a couple of ways.
The first and most obvious solution is maximizing housing development for these incoming New Yorkers, both market-rate and affordable.
The administration has announced a plan — Zoning for Quality and Affordability — that will allow for greater zoning flexibility so that the maximum amount of development on a site can be achieved.
If we are to find ways to fit all of these incoming citizens into New York, it is critical that we take full advantage of the zoning regulations that govern existing residential buildings in order to ensure that we are utilizing as much of that available space as possible.
Mayor de Blasio’s ten-year, five-borough plan is a crucial piece of that puzzle, and will make a significant difference in the number of families that will have access to affordable housing in all corners of the city.
The administration’s housing plan recognizes the opportunity that rezonings can create to alleviate our housing shortage and to produce more affordable housing to address the needs of all New Yorkers.
The Department of City Planning is working on a set of neighborhood rezoning plans to address our housing issues and the challenges of population growth.
Our industry is prepared to work with the Mayor to meet the needs of New Yorkers who are here and those arriving in the next few decades.
The issue of New York’s steadily increasing population and how best to meet its needs are a critical public policy issue that affects us all.
All of us who serve the public must realize that the next million New Yorkers will not be waiting at our gate for us to be ready for them; they are coming in every day expecting the best, and it is our responsibility to provide that for them.
In other REBNY news:
June 5 is REBNY’s Annual Downtown Breakfast Round Robin at the Brotherhood Synagogue. The seminar and networking event will feature industry experts and a Q & A session. To register, visit REBNY.com. The fee for REBNY members is $20, and the fee for non-members is $35.
REBNY’s Annual Golf & Tennis Outing is on June 8 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the North Shore Country Club. Weather permitting, the outing will be a full day of golf, tennis, and swimming, and will also include lunch, cocktails, and dinner.
For more information on registering for this event, contact Kathleen Gibbs at KGibbs@REBNY.com.