21st Century SROs: Can Small Housing Units Help Meet the Need for Affordable Housing in New York City?
Single-room occupancy housing (SROs) used to be a readily available affordable housing type in New York City. During the second half of the 20th century, many SROs came to serve as housing of last resort, and mounting criticism of SROs led to laws banning their construction and discouraging their operation. Today, New York City faces a significant housing affordability crisis. In this context, it is worth considering whether the city needs an updated housing model that helps meet the need SROs filled in the last century. Here we analyze the benefits, risks, and challenges of reintroducing small housing units (self-contained micro units and efficiency units with shared facilities) in order to shed light on whether and how a new small-unit model could help meet the demand for affordable housing in the city today.
Building New or Preserving the Old? The Affordable Housing Tradeoffs of Developing on NYCHA Land
This report explores the tradeoffs between leasing underdeveloped NYCHA land to generate revenue, creating new affordable units, or achieving some portion of both. It finds that in neighborhoods with high rents, leasing underdeveloped NYCHA-owned land for private development could generate either substantial annual lease payments for NYCHA or significant numbers of affordable units. The potential to generate a substantial lease payment or number of affordable units drops as market rents drop. Where there is potential to lease land for development, the report quantifies the tradeoffs between generating revenue for NYCHA and creating new affordable units.
Challenges and Opportunities for Hotel-to-Housing Conversions in New York City
As the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath, policymakers in New York City and Albany have debated whether and how to support the conversion of hotels into housing—and especially affordable housing—as part of a solution to the city’s ongoing housing crisis. To better understand what opportunities for hotel conversion exist in New York City, this paper examines the legal regime governing hotel conversions to identify the most important regulatory barriers to such adaptive uses.
Creating Affordable Housing Out of Thin Air: The Economics of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning in New York City
This policy brief examines the economic potential of a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy to produce new affordable units tied to upzonings across New York City’s neighborhoods. It finds that a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy in New York City has the potential to produce affordable units in neighborhoods that already command high rent, such as East Harlem. But the city’s low-rent neighborhoods, such as East New York and Jerome Avenue, may not have sufficient market strength to justify high-density mixed-income development without other forms of subsidy. The study considers the role of 421-a, as well as key policy trade-offs including on-site vs. off-site, depth of affordability, and permanent affordability. View the white paper, press release, and briefing presentation deck.
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due: Overhauling the CRA
The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is in need of a major overhaul. Since the CRA was enacted in 1977, and since the last major rewrite of the regulations more than 15 years ago, much about the financial services industry has changed. This chapter discusses why the regulatory system needs to be redesigned to allow for more regular and timely updates, allowing more rapid responses to what is working and what is not. By being more amenable to continuous improvement, the CRA should be more open to innovation and experimentation given the greater opportunity for making midterm corrections. This chapter starts with a brief overview of the CRA and its successes. It then outlines some ways to facilitate more regular updating of the CRA regulations, followed by a review of a number of ways to increase the effectiveness of CRA in helping to stabilize and revitalize low-and moderate-income (LMI) communities.
Impact Fees and Housing Affordability
The increasing use of impact fees and the costs that they may add to the development process raises serious concerns about the effect using impact fees to fund infrastructure will have on the affordability of housing.
NYC Housing 10 Issues Series #7: NYCHA Land Lease
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest provider of affordable housing in New York City, currently housing roughly five percent of the city’s population. The agency is facing dire financial shortfalls, however, that threaten the long-term viability of its stock. NYCHA needs to close its operating and capital budget gaps, and has a limited number of options to do so. This brief explores the tradeoffs of the New York City Housing Authority’s plan to lease its undeveloped land for the construction of market-rate rental housing.
The #NYChousing series, published in 2013 prior to the New York City mayoral election, identified 10 key affordable housing issues that were likely to confront the next mayor of New York City. The series aimed to inform the public about the policy tradeoffs by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions related to key housing issues facing New York City. How the incoming New York City mayor would choose address the city's housing challenges in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market would have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.
Policy Brief: 21st Century SROs: Can Small Housing Units Help Meet the Need for Affordable Housing in New York City?
This brief explores the potential demand for smaller, cheaper units to help address New York City’s affordable housing need. It considers the feasibility of self-contained micro units as well as efficiency units with shared kitchens and/or baths. The report considers the economics of building and operating small units and models their financial feasibility. It concludes by analyzing the main barriers to the creation of small units that exist in New York City and suggesting possible reforms that New York City can make to address these barriers.
Removing Regulatory Barriers: One City’s Experience
The difficulty of developing housing in New York City is as legendary as its cost. The city has had a vacancy rate under 5% — the legislative threshold defining a housing “emergency”—for more than 55 years. More than one commission or blue ribbon panel has identified government regulation as one of the primary causes of the housing problem. Since 2000, however, an opportunity presented itself to finally make some progress in reducing the cost of housing construction. Removing regulatory barriers to housing development caught the interest of two mayors—Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg—and their respective housing commissioners.
Selling the Debt: Properties Affected by the Sale of New York City Tax Liens
This data brief sheds light on the process of tax lien sales in New York City, which affected over 15,000 properties and roughly 43,600 residential units between 2010 and 2015.
It finds that most tax liens in New York City eligible for sale are sold and generate substantial revenue for the city; between 1997 and 2015, the city raised more than $1.3 billion from the sale of tax liens. However, the city also has the power to remove liens eligible for sale from the lien sale list. The report also describes the characteristics of properties with liens sold in New York City between 2010 and 2015, including the property type, their location, and the outcome following the lien sale.