Dearth of Affordable Housing Translates to Local Rent Worries, Report
A recent analysis from Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine contains some illuminating demographic indicators about Lower Manhattan. His report, “Housing Manhattanites: A Report on Where and How to Build the Housing We Need,” notes that the creation of housing within the confines of Community Board 1—a patchwork of neighborhoods encompassing 1.5 square miles, bounded roughly by Canal, Baxter, and Pearl Streets, and the Brooklyn Bridge—“has failed to keep pace with population growth.”
Citing a population increase of 27 percent (growing to a total of 78,390 residents) between the 2010 and 2020 Census results, the report notes that, “since 2017, only 2,972 residential units have been built in the district, for a total of 41,977 units.” The analysis adds that, “since 2014, just 212 units of affordable housing were built” in CB1, “the second-lowest number in Manhattan.” In particular, the report states that the much-heralded Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program, implemented citywide in 2016 and requiring developers to include affordable housing in areas that are rezoned for more housing development, has produced no affordable units in Lower Manhattan.
Using statistics from the Population FactFinder database maintained by the Department of City Planning, the report also notes that some 5,520 of these local dwellings (or 13.2 percent of the total) were vacant in 2020, figures that predate the local population decline associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Widespread warehousing of empty apartments by landlords and developers is often cited by affordability advocates as a contributing cause to housing shortages.
During the same period, Mr. Levine’s research indicates, “median monthly rents [in CB1] have skyrocketed, ranging from $4,400 in the Financial District to $11,995 in Tribeca. While the average median household income in the district is $158,297, more than a third of households are rent burdened.” (This is a label using by housing economists to denote any household that spends more one-third of its gross monthly income on rent.) “For households in the district earning less than $50,000, 76 percent are rent burdened,” the report continues.
“Manhattan isn’t facing just a shortage of affordable housing,” Mr. Levine says. “We’re facing a full-blown affordability crisis, arguably the worst in our history. We’re simply not creating enough housing, and especially not enough affordable housing.”