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State of the City 2019

State of the City’s Housing Stock

During 2019, the City of New York permitted the greatest number of housing units since 2008, with the exception of a spike in 2015. Despite this recovery, permitted production remained below pre-recession levels. While permit activity increased, builders completed fewer units in 2019 than in 2018, but this overall level was higher than completions in the first half of the decade. Of the 24,566 new units completed in 2019, more than half were located in six Sub-Borough Areas in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. New units added made up less than one percent of the city’s housing stock. The City also designated five historic districts in 2019, extending protections to the greatest number of lots since 2015.

The number of residential units authorized by new building permits increased in 2019.

The number of housing units authorized by new building permits in New York City increased by 33.7 percent between 2018 and 2019. The number of permitted units for new one- to four-unit buildings fell (-3.4% to 1,542), and continued to remain well below pre-2008 levels. The number of units authorized in new buildings with 5 to 49 units increased (+23.3% to 5,975), as did the number of units in buildings with 50 or more units (+41.8% to 19,245). New buildings with 50 or more units continue to account for the majority (71.9%) of new units authorized by new building permits, up 4.1 percentage points from 2018. The overall number of units permitted in 2019 was 70.4 percent of what it was in the pre-recession peak in 2008. The spike in permitting activity in 2015 may have been due to developers rushing to apply for permits in that year, before legislation authorizing the 421-a tax exemption expired.

Bar graph showing authorized residential unit by new building permits by property size, 2004 to 2019

The number of units completed in 2019 declined compared to 2018, but remained above pre-2017 levels.

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of new units that received a certificate of occupancy decreased by 14.2 percent to 24,566, reversing a trend of increases between 2012 and 2018. The majority of new units authorized for occupancy were in 50+ unit buildings (65.6%). Certificates of occupancy were issued for 408 single-family homes, (a decrease of 22.1%). Certificates of occupancy were also issued for 1,611 units in 2-4 unit buildings (an increase of 14.9%), and 6,453 units in 5-49 unit buildings (a decrease of 19.0%).

The relatively large number of residential units completed post-2015 is likely related to the large number of units authorized by new building permits in 2015. Facing the expiration of the 421-a tax exemption, many developers accelerated their plans in order to be grandfathered under the then-existing tax incentive program. The increase in the number of units coming onto the market beginning in 2016 is likely a byproduct of the 2015 spike in new building permits, as buildings started in 2015 were completed in later years.

Bar graph showing completed residential issued certificates of occupancy by type, 2010 to 2019

New units were concentrated in a few neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

The majority of new units completed and issued certificates of occupancy in 2019 were located in a limited number of Sub-Borough Areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. More than 2,000 units completed were in Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown (3,119 units), Sunnyside/Woodside (2,913), and Williamsburg/Greenpoint (2,334). Morningside Heights/Hamilton Heights saw the fewest number of new units completed, where only two units received certificates of occupancy. Alteration and demolition work can also add or reduce the overall number of units. Accounting for changes in the number of units due to new construction, alterations, and demolitions, some areas of the city actually lost housing in 2019. For example, the Upper East Side lost 148 units.

Map showing number of completed residential issued certificates of occupancy by Borough

The typical project took about 2 years to achieve a certificate of occupancy.

The length of time between when a building project is issued a permit and when it receives a certificate of occupancy provides insight into the typical duration of construction for New York City residential projects. Restricting our review to buildings permitted in years with a high proportion of completed projects (2009—2014), the median residential construction project took approximately 1.9 years to complete. The median construction time lengthened during the time period reviewed; while the median building took slightly more than 2 years to complete in 2014, it took 1.9 and 1.6 years in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Roughly half of all residential construction projects were completed in between a little over a year and a little over two and a half years. Some projects took as long as ten years to reach completion.

Bar graph showing number of projects by duration and permit issuance year, 2009 to 2014

The construction time for buildings permitted between 2009 and 2014 varied slightly depending on project size.

Overall, smaller buildings took less time to build than larger buildings, but a significant share of small buildings had longer development timelines. The median single family home took 1.6 years to build, while the median building with 50 or more units took 2.2 years. However, larger buildings had lower variance in construction duration.

Four bar graphs showing number of construction projects by project duration and size

New York City designated five new historic districts, encompassing the greatest number of lots since 2015.

In 2019, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated five new historic districts. The districts included 584 individual tax lots, an increase of 22.7 percent from 2018, and more than three times the number of lots designated in 2017. Still, the number of lots designated in 2018 was lower than the number of lots designated earlier in the decade. The largest new historic district, Sunset Park South, encompasses 286 lots.

Bar graphs showing number of designated in historic districts, 2000 to 2019