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.
Supply Skepticism: Housing Supply and Affordability
Growing numbers of affordable housing advocates and community members are questioning the premise that increasing the supply of market-rate housing will result in housing that is more affordable. This article is meant to bridge the divide, addressing each of the key arguments supply skeptics make and reviewing what research has shown about housing supply and its effect on affordability. It ultimately concludes, from both theory and empirical evidence, that adding new homes moderates price increases and therefore makes housing more affordable to low- and moderate-income families. It also emphasizes that new market-rate housing is necessary but not sufficient, and that government intervention is critical to ensure that supply is added at prices affordable to a range of incomes.
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.
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.
The Latest Reform Proposal for the 421-a Program
This report analyzes the potential impact of the most recent reform proposal for the 421-a program on housing development in New York City, which is currently under consideration by the New York State Legislature. In evaluating the proposal, the report finds that the proposed 421-a program’s increase in tax exemption exceeds the additional affordable housing benefit by $2.6 to $5.7 million for a 300-unit building. The report also finds that the higher tax break for developers may support a 10-18% rise in hard construction costs without affecting long-term financial returns.
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.
The Latest Legislative Reform of the 421-a Tax Exemption: A Look at Possible Outcomes
This report explores the possible impacts of the new 421-a legislation on residential development in New York City’s neighborhoods. The legislation has set in motion three possible outcomes; the outcome should be determined in December 2016. Through financial modeling, this study details the effect each outcome will have on production of housing in different parts of the city. We find that the expiration of the 421-a benefit would likely lead to a disruption in the supply of housing by market rate builders, while a revised program without any increase in construction costs could result in the development of more rental units in many parts of the city compared to what the existing 421-a program would have created.
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.
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.
Urban Land-Use Regulation: Are Homeowners Overtaking the Growth Machine?
The leading theory about urban land-use regulation argues that city zoning officials are full partners in the business and real estate elite’s “growth machine.” Suburban land-use officials, in contrast, are thought to cater to the interests of the majority of their electorate— “homevoters.” A unique database regarding over 200,000 lots that the New York City Planning Commission considered for rezoning between 2002 and 2009 allows us to test various hypotheses suggested by these competing theories of land-use regulation. This analysis reveals that homevoters are more powerful in urban politics than scholars, policymakers, and judges have assumed.