Is NYC Building Enough Housing?

MLewyn's picture

New York city planning director Amanda Burden recently argued that there's not much more that the city can do to make housing more affordable, claiming that the city has given out 30,000 building permits per year, yet prices have failed to go down.  But in fact, New York has built housing at a much lower rate than some other cities.

New York granted around 30-33,000 building permits per year during the boom years of 2005-08 (or about 40 per 10,000 residents), and about 6000 per year during the "bust" years of 2009-10 (or about 8 per 10,000 residents).

How do these numbers compare with Sun Belt cities?  Jacksonville allowed 111 permits per 10,000 people at the top of the boom, and 13 at the trough- two to three times as many as New York.  Houston peaked at the same level as New York, but has been granted more permits during recent years, bottoming out at 12.6 per 10,000.   Even Atlanta (which is "built out" to a greater extent than Jacksonville or Houston) peaked at 44 per 10,000, though its recession-era construction has declined below New York levels.

And because some of New York's suburbs are not building much new housing, New York has to allow more building than other cities just to stay in place.  For example, Long Island's Nassau County only allowed 9 permits per 10,000 people in the mid-2000s, and Westchester County allowed between 8 and 14 per 10,000 during this period.  By contrast, DeKalb County (Atlanta's inner suburban county) consistently allowed 50-70 per 10,000 between 2000 and 2005, and nearby Cobb County peaked at 89 permits per 10,000.

Admittedly, New York is already built out- which makes new construction more difficult.  But New York's already-high housing prices make new construction more necessary as well.


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