New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

NYCHA, Buy Up Vacant Apartments

In order to deal with the housing affordability crisis, NYCHA should purchase the 250,000 vacant apartments in the city and convert them into affordable housing units.

New York City’s housing crisis is a bizarre paradox. Currently, hundreds of thousands of residents grapple with cost barriers while trying to find affordable apartments through the New York City Housing Authority. With Mayor de Blasio cutting deals to privatize around one-third of existing public housing by handing over control to private operators with abhorrent track records of providing apartments to people who make less than $30,000 a year, NYCHA is no longer a guarantor of truly affordable housing units. While this happens, nearly 250,000 rental units lie vacant, which is more than 11% of the city’s rental apartment stock. Combined, these two issues make up a majority of New York’s housing crisis. It is within NYCHA’s power to neutralize both problems with an elegant solution: acquiring vacant apartments and converting them into affordable housing.

To be clear, these apartments are vacant for a reason: price. Anybody who has tried to find housing in New York is acutely aware of this problem. From 2010 to 2019, the average cost of Brooklyn real estate nearly doubled, with rates in the other boroughs comparably rising. With this in mind, it should come at no surprise that the majority of vacant rental apartments are priced at a median rate of above $1,800 dollars. These prices are prohibitively expensive for many.

This problem is not exclusive to New York City. In fact, most major cities are dealing with home prices rising faster than inflation. For example, the Miami area has 428,000 empty homes, bringing their vacancy rate to 17%. New York has an opportunity to lead the nation in combating this nation-wide issue.

If these apartments are not being used, then why not purchase them? Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is piloting a buy-down program to meet the needs of his city residents, where the municipal government negotiated a below-market rate with property owners. For the pilot phase, the program allowed residents to pay subsidized rent for up to two years. Additionally, residents who were struggling to find affordable housing units now have decent places to live. NYCHA could mimic this policy, or alternatively, directly purchase vacated housing units from their owners.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development considers families who pay 30% or more of their income on rent as “cost-burdened,” meaning they struggle to pay for basic necessities because of unaffordable housing. As of 2017, more than 462,000 city residents were severely cost-burdened. There is no perfect solution for the housing crisis, but utilizing the city’s vacant residences will greatly benefit many New Yorkers. The benefits of the policy extend to all residents, as introducing more competition into housing markets is generally shown to correlate with decreases in average rent.

With so many residents struggling to find a place to live, NYCHA should prioritize developing affordable units instead of raffling off public housing to the highest bidder. Housing, in New York City and around the United States, must remain accessible to lower and middle-class citizens.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Kevin Kurian at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Kevin Kurian
Kevin Kurian, Opinion Editor
Kevin Kurian is a CAS junior studying Politics and Economics. He's from Connecticut and won't shut up about it if you get him started. Kevin is passionate about affordable housing and finding the best biriyani near campus. You can find him on Twitter at @KevinKurian.

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  • U

    UnknownNov 2, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    Nycha was not meant for privitazation. These apts were once for military barracks. The. When all this crap happens around the world and the immigrating persons starting coming in here and imposing the religious and hatred harmful s within them they did nothing and didnt want to confron the facts of where the monies that they already had be given by the federal gov. Went well it went to other projects and not ones of good use. As some of the very persons set their and stole the stuff that were suppose to used to upgrade and appropriately repair the acts.and that didn’t happen. And rvdng asafe place I wouldn’t still be awaiting a transfer and my hair and my property would have been stolen by grand larcenies and persons who aided and abetted in the commission of fraud, perjury and abuse. Even covering and misuse racist discrimination information and other means to obscund from transferring me as they were suppose to. And allowing another family to move in to a apt where al forms of leaks and damage had been caused not only to my items but also exposing me to dangerous chemicals and multiple thieving perjury liars. Who broke into my apt and stole. Excuse sing me to their persons who can harm me and my daughter like some of they kids and associates did committing al forms of fraud and reckless endangerment. That covering exposed them far worst them anything and the blockjj on Nc of attorney even worse. They did nothing al these years but make excuses while info was stolen. And having persons who rob and have their convictions go free. They solved nothing just to cover up. Too many times to number as they phished stole hacked perjured abusedecen lying about being some form of guardian of mine which they ever had been. Those persons should been dragged in places prison numerous years ago and ever let out. Misusing congressional parties to commit the above acts of harm. Regardless of what if people decide that others are restricted out of their lives for various reason no one not a family member had a right to force or keep me from living in the horrific conditions that I have been awaiting a transfer to get out of. While some nypdQ did their job it was short changed by some perjurying felon hiders and junkies . The only persons switched stories around or hid their no good perjury robbing abuse felony acts were the ones who not only agog. Official should have convicted also the nypd

  • K

    KevinMar 5, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    Did you run this comment by anyone before writing it? How are developers going to recoup their money if nobody can afford the prices? Selling these apartments to NYCHA is ultimately the best return on investment that developers can receive.

  • A

    AndreaMar 4, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Do you have any expertise at all in housing, or are you just writing things? NYCHA is not at a position to buy units that are trying to be rented at $2,000/month. Developers aren’t going to just sell them to NYCHA for a deal either — they’re trying to recoup their investment, and building those luxury apartments in NYC did not come cheap. NYCHA needs RAD and other ways to MAKE MONEY to be able to funnel that into their projects so they can be rehabilitated and not deteriorate beyond repair. They are in NO WAY in a place to be able to make investments into luxury apartments, in random luxury buildings across the city, in buildings with rich people who don’t want public housing tenants. Seriously did you run this idea by even one person before publishing this.