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NYC Active Major Construction (nyc.gov)
77 points by apsec112 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

Considering the NY-Newark metro area has ~18M people, 120k proposed housing units (at ~2.5 persons per household) is about a 1% increase above the base rate of housing, assuming no vacancies and one household per unit. Considering the already astronomical price of housing in the area, it's hard to imagine that this is really going to move the needle. If we were serious about reducing housing cost, you'd see 3-5x the number of proposed units as you do, or more.

You are comparing the entire metro area population to housing units under construction only within the NYC city limits (and the population within NYC city limits is ~8.4 million).

I agree there needs to be a far faster rate of housing development if you want to see housing cost reductions, I just don't think the comparison you're drawing makes much sense.

There is substantial (if also insufficient) housing development going up in NJ, parts of NY outside the city limits, etc.

The comparison needs to either include all of those units, or only compare against the NYC population instead of the metro population.

> There is substantial (if also insufficient) housing development going up in NJ

Very much insufficient IMO. People are resisting a proposal to build a residential tower at the site of a current parking lot across the street from Journal Square PATH station. If people can't see the need to prioritize humans over cars at that location, we're in big trouble.

A large influx of units devalues similar homes in the same general location. People don't want their home price to drop. They may not have bought it specifically as an investment, but if you buy something for $500k and 10 years later it is worth $400k, you're not going to be happy. You might even go underwater on a mortgage because you only put 3% down for your first home.

I'm not saying it's right, but I do understand why NIMBY syndrome exists. People would be fine with more housing, more skyscrapers, or whatever if their home price wasn't directly affected.

That would be an understandable objection (though IMO extremely selfish and terrible). What people are actually saying is the exact opposite. Something along the lines of "If these apartments get built, the neighborhood will become more desirable for rich people and my rent will go up."

That and all the usual complaints about "it will be harder to find parking", "the streets will become too congested", etc.

Excuse me, but that parking lot is a historical landmark and a cornerstone of the community!

Good point. My apologies and thanks for the correction. I did not intend to mislead.

So, the fraction of existing stock that is being developed is about 2% rather than 1%. Although, I don't know how many of these proposed units replace existing units, so perhaps the estimate was also too generous in the other direction.

Broadly, 1% could be bad, or it could be helpful... it depends.

NY-Newark is clearly the wrong metric, since the new housing website only covers NY. The comparable statistic is 8.4M for 2020: http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/new-york-city-pop...

But I agree this isn't right either - you really want new commutable housing vs existing commutable housing, and that's obviously a lot bigger number on both sides of the equation, and because it affects multiple jurisdictions (NJ, CT, LI, etc) it would be a pain to gather properly... even assuming everyone could agree on "commutable" - for some, that means 20mins, for others 2hrs is fine sitting comfortably on LIRR, NJT or metro north; let alone capturing the impact of transfers, flaky vs reliable transit options, transit cost... I once commuted by LIRR: all fun and games until you're waiting for a train transfer outdoors in high wind in Feb, and then get to your car, which has thawed/refrozen and you need to excavate to even get in...)

hope this helps, please be gentle.

> sitting comfortably on ... NJT

In what alternate dimension does this NJT exist in? I'm not often "sitting comfortably" on anything operated by NJT. Some days I'm lucky to be sitting at all.

From experience, I recommend a good pair of noise cancelling headphones.

High housing prices aren't simply matter of supply and demand though. At least not what would be considered expected/desirable demand. Large part of demand on NYC housing, is as investment units. Because of very favorable tenant laws, investment units don't even get rented out, because it isn't worth renting it out and dealing with the tenant laws. So there are a lot of units in Manhattan that are actually unoccupied. More than that, there are also new housing units that are clearly built to be sold more as investment units than as actual primary residencies.

That is only one example of pretty complex dynamics. There are many other complex issues, including mortgage rates, more nuances about tenant laws and renting out apartments, extra costs associated with selling/buying houses and so on.

It is a pretty complex situation. Another big part of the equation is that there are a lot of wealthy people who benefit from high housing prices that continue to increase, so it is very unlikely that things will change towards other direction any time soon.

This is just a map of the housing construction in the five boroughs.

Some suburbs are densifying around train stations and some are not, but New York City has no mechanism to make the suburbs densify.

There’s actually oversupply and prices are pretty good right now - relatively speaking of course.

> prices are pretty good right now

How do you define "pretty good"? Sure, prices in some areas are less than their peak, but many people are still struggling to afford housing.

Just because prices are going down doesn't mean that they are going down to the level they _should_ be at (whatever that would mean).

The first statement is completely false, of course.

The second is simply vacuous.

While you’re right that there is not an oversupply(needs citation), it is interesting to note some Burroughs have seen a decrease in rent in the past few years.

[0] (2018) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-12/pick-a-ne...

This point is that these dips in some neighborhoods a basically negligible against a backdrop of an overall affordability situation which is extremely bleak for most people who live in the city. And quite different from how things were 20 years ago or more.

It's like -- okay, a 1BR in a reasonably accessible neighborhood now costs $2600 instead of $2700. What are we talking about here?

20+ years ago there was much more crime and living in the city was not desirable

I should have said "about 12 years or more."

The tipping point for crime was around 1996-1997. After that, murders (while a bit higher) were much closer to current levels.

After that there was about a 12 year period (until 2010) when rents weren't nearly as high as they are now -- around 40 percent lower across the board; and some neighborhoods have basically "flipped" and seen their median rents double.

The point is, from around 1998-2010 the city was about as "desirable" as it is now -- but significantly more affordable. To get affordability back to those levels -- we'd have to see something like a 30 to 40 percent reduction throughout the system.

It seems unlikely that would happen, even given the most ambitious upzoning, and the most wildly optimistic increases in inventory anyone could reasonably hope for.

The historical (before 1980) rate of housing starts in American cities was 1 per 100 people per year, not per 100 households.

> you'd see 3-5x the number of proposed units as you do, or more.

Why? I would think it depends on population growth, no? From what I hear [1] the population of NYC is actually shrinking (due to taxation and demographics).

After seeing this number (127k units under construction) I'm actually optimistic that prices will drop medium term.

[1] https://streeteasy.com/blog/nyc-population/

If we were serious about reducing housing cost, you'd see 3-5x the number of proposed units as you do, or more.

And your plan for achieving that number is - what precisely?

There's a reason for the modest increases in unit counts these plans produce: In reality, they all end up being way harder to implement (and costing a lot more) than you or I would like to think they would.

> And your plan for achieving that number is - what precisely?

Ease up on the zoning laws. Many zoning laws in that same metro area prohibit high density housing. The same high density housing that is most profitable and reduces the cost of housing.

Ease up on the zoning laws.

Sounds like a hunch, rather than a plan.

I say that because while it sounds like that "ought to work" there's no evidence that (by itself) it will be sufficient to make a dent in the problem.

no evidence that

This isn't true at all. There are numerous studies about regional effects and now even neighborhood ones:


It’s not just a hunch. There is a strong theoretical basis for why that will case prices to go down and supply to go up. And that theory is backed with actual evidence. Houston has more new home starts than the entire state of California, its housing prices are stable despite explosive population growth. Tokyo likewise has more housing starts than New York, LA, and Houston combined, and prices there are stable despite a growing population as people move into the city from the rest of Japan. The thing both places have in common is very streamlined zoning laws.

Zoning proponents are like anti-vaxxers and climate changer deniers.

I will never wrap my head around the concept that building more housing won't help housing prices because apparently 7 billion people want to live in San Francisco or something.

Zoning proponents are like anti-vaxxers and climate changer deniers.

Pure hyperbole. Unless you literally believe that there should be no proscriptions against me building, for example, a major trash incineration facility on a plot of land in the middle of your quiet residential neighborhood -- just because I "own" it -- then congratulations, you're a zoning advocate.

Everyone acknowledges the need for some form of zoning (or zoning-equivalent) legislation. It's just how cities work.

> for example, a major trash incineration facility on a plot of land in the middle of your quiet residential neighborhood

We can either chat about the 0.01% of scenarios ... or the other 99.99%. The other 99.99% look extremely similar ... it's towns not allowing two-family homes in one-family zones. Three-family homes in two-family or one-family zones. We're not even talking about apartment buildings. All of those are built using "variances", which just illustrate how absurd the system is.

Oh and speaking about your example? I live in a two-family home in a two-family zone ... next to a bus depot. How you ask? Well, they just got a variance I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Again you're hyperbolizing.

The outright toxic projects that developers and city leaders routinely propose run at a least a couple of orders of magnitude above 0.01 percent.

Then there's a huge fat tail of other cases (big box retail, correctional facilities, treatment centers... not to mention freeway expansions and so forth) that, lo and behold -- not everyone who loves within a short radius of is a huge fan of, to say the least.

The point is - it's a grey scale, and you're painting it as a binary. It's not.

> Again you're hyperbolizing.

I am not.

> The outright toxic projects that developers and city leaders routinely propose run at a least a couple of orders of magnitude above 0.01 percent.

This is true, but does not contradict my point. How many tiny projects are never run through anything or even considered because regular people don't have a mountain of cash/lawyers/etc. and simply comply with the law, while all those toxic projects hire lawyers to get variances?

How many two-family homes are never built or even considered because the zone is one-family? How many housing units have we lost this way?

How many housing units have we lost this way?

We can certainly ask all kinds of questions about whether some forms of zoning are a good idea or not. Certainly many are outdated, illogical and/or counterproductive.

But the point is that everyone (whether they say so or not) acknowledged that at least some baseline of codified land use regulation -- a.k.a. "zoning" -- is necessary.

It's just a question of what kind -- and who should benefit.

That's an interesting definition of "major". Some of these permits are for projects like a 59 square foot expansion [1] of a single family home.

[1] http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/JobsQueryByNumberServlet?p...

The map is made with www.carto.com, a pretty sweet mapping solution!

it does look cool. i'm honestly more impressed by the overall look-and-feel and responsiveness of the dashboard. at first i thought it was shiny or Dash by plotly. does carto interop with or fork those??

This map does not seem to cover road construction type things. I walk some road construction everyday and it's not on here.

I'm fairly certain that is because "Active Major Construction" is a specific classification, and it does not apply to road construction.

Still not enough. Here is why Tokyo housing prices are stable, despite the city growing, while NYC’s continue to go up: https://reason.com/2019/04/02/nimbys-argue-new-housing-suppl...

> According to the Journal, the Japanese capital of nearly some 13 million people saw the construction of 145,000 new housing units started in 2018—more than New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, and Boston combined. The country as a whole has managed to add close to the same amount of new housing as the U.S., despite having about half the population.

What’s remarkable about that last point is that Japan has been shrinking for a few years now, while the US continues to grow.

Japanese homes are only kept for 20-30 years from what I read. Do the above statistics include homes that are demolished and rebuilt?

I don’t know if that’s really accurate for Tokyo. It’s mostly concrete and steel construction, like any other major city.

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