A significant political shift in the Big Apple will likely change the character of many neighborhoods in the city. The shift, which many see as a necessary evil, allows developers to build new, high-density housing in neighborhoods that are historically opposed to large-scale development. Politicians in NYC are increasingly more receptive to new housing development in their districts, even in the face of strong neighborhood opposition. But why is the change happening now?
NYC and the greater metro area have a massive housing shortage of affordable and market-rate apartments. NYC alone needs to build 560,000 housing units between 2022 and 2030 to keep up with demand, and in 2019, the NYC metro area had an estimated housing shortage of 340,000 homes.
NYC rents exploded recently due to a lack of adequate housing inventory. For example, the median rental price of apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn increased around 22% annually between September 2021 and 2022. As of September 2022, apartment vacancy is just north of 2.0% in Manhattan, making the hunt for an apartment extremely competitive.
Because of high rents and low vacancy, Mayor Eric Adams prioritized building more market-rate and affordable housing. The Mayor recently, for the first time, officially endorsed a development in Throggs Neck, a largely suburban, low-density area of The Bronx. The development, which needed a rezoning to achieve approval, plans to add four buildings with 54,000 square feet of retail space below 348 apartments, of which nearly half could be permanently affordable.
Council Member Marjorie Velazquez recently approved an upzoning of an area of the neighborhood to allow for the development, despite strong local opposition. The main opposition to the development is the scale of the project, which would add buildings of up to eight stories to a neighborhood that mostly consists of one and two-story homes and commercial properties. To influence Velazquez’s decision, Mayor Adams officially endorsed the development, the first time he had thrown his mayoral support behind a project.
“This project will bring nearly 350 much needed homes — including affordable housing for seniors and veterans — to a neighborhood that has only added 58 affordable units in the last decade,” Adams said in an official statement. “Just as importantly, it is a sign that our city is once again embracing our identity as a ‘City of Yes.’ The housing crisis impacts all of us, and every community has a responsibility to be part of the solution.”
This isn’t a problem that is specific to NYC. Nationally, some reports estimate that the U.S. has a housing shortage of more than 6 million housing units. As a result, more governors and mayors are taking action to endorse specific development projects and policies that promote more housing production.
For example, California Governor Gavin Newson passed several laws over the last couple of years to address his state’s severe housing crisis. Some of the most ambitious policies include outlawing single-family zoning and forcing each California city to add a specified number of new housing units. As a result, Southern California counties will collectively have to build three times as many housing units over the next decade compared to the previous one. If municipalities don’t change their zoning to accommodate new housing production, they will lose control over their permitting process.
Mayors in California have also endorsed specific development projects and initiatives to help ease their city’s housing shortage and affordability crisis. San Francisco Mayor London Breed recently spoke at the groundbreaking of a 100% affordable and supportive housing project. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke in favor of a recently-passed law that will ban parking minimums near California transit stations, allowing for more housing near transit.
With housing becoming increasingly unaffordable nationwide, mayors and governors across the country will likely prioritize supporting controversial new housing developments and policies during their campaign and tenure. In NYC, Mayor Eric Adams wants to transform the city into a “City of Yes,” where every neighborhood does its part to address the housing crisis.
Tyler graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2017 with a Bachelor's degree in Urban and Regional Studies. Currently based in Los Angeles, he works as a freelance content writer and copywriter for companies in real estate, property management, and similar industries. Tyler's main professional passion is writing about critical issues affecting big and small cities alike, including housing affordability, homelessness, inequality, and transportation. When he isn't working, he usually plans his next road trip or explores new neighborhoods and hiking trails.