Correction: The Comptroller's Office reported Wednesday evening that it made a "calculation error" in its original report, which stated that the city lost 1.069 million units renting for less than $900 per month between 2005 and 2017. The actual figure is 425,492 units. We have updated our article to reflect the change.
Revision to “The Gap is Still Growing” report: pic.twitter.com/DNPJGlCgNl
— Scott M. Stringer (@NYCComptroller) September 26, 2018
New York real estate is rife with wildly overpriced listings: Would you like to rent this couch-sized studio for $2,500 a month? Would you pay $1,375 for the privilege of awakening to the invigorating patter of freezer drip from your bunk-bed-slash-kitchenette? Do you have $500,000 to spend on an apartment you can fold into an armoire? What about $2,000 per month you'd gladly pay for a good old-fashioned kitchen shower? True, these real listings that are not jokes may not paint a wholly accurate picture of the average New York living situation, but according to a new report, their high price tags do.
Data from City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office, published Tuesday, offers a bleak update to a 2014 report on the city's affordable housing stock. Four years ago, 400,000 listings priced under $1,000 per month had been wiped from the housing market between 2000 and 2012, at the same time as median rents surged by 75 percent. Now, the report shows that 425,492 under-$900 rentals disappeared between 2005 and 2017. In that time, the city got 235,000 units priced between $1,051 and $1,650, and over 111,000 units priced $2,700 and up.
In part, we can blame this trend on population growth: The report notes that the city took on 576,000 new residents between 2005 and 2016, but just over 76,000 occupied rental units. Meanwhile, unavailable units ballooned by 51 percent.
At the same time, the city's rent-regulated housing stock plummeted by 88,518 units from 2005 to 2017, losing more units than it gained every year during that 12-year period except for 2017. The report attributes this phenomenon to high rent vacancy deregulation, a provision that means units lose stabilization status when tenants decline to renew their leases and "that unit's maximum legal rent exceeds a deregulation threshold set by the State." That threshold jumped from $2,000 to $2,500 in 2011, continuing to climb all the way to $2,700 in 2015, which—per the report—"may also explain why three-quarters of units renting for over $2,700 were unregulated in 2017."
"Unless Albany lawmakers strengthen renters' rights and expand rent stabilization, this will become a city where the entrance fee will become a two-million-dollar condo," Stringer said at a press conference on Tuesday, according to Patch. "And that kind of city betrays everything we stand for."
Indeed, as Patch reports, the most a minimum wage worker can be expected to pay per month is $900 toward rent, if they also want to eat and commute.
Recent years have seen an uptick in the number of fabulously wealthy New Yorkers deciding to rent when they could reasonably afford to buy, contributing to the scarcity of affordable apartments. Some landlords have also undertaken harassment campaigns to drive out rent-stabilized tenants, freeing up prime real estate and charging far more for it. Mayor de Blasio has pledged to make or preserve 300,000 affordable units by 2026, but the prognosis on that plan does not look promising. Still, Stringer says the housing crisis is "a fight we can win." The most pertinent question would seem to be: how?