Rental Vacancies Sweeping New York City

Nearly 250,000 NYC rental apartments are vacant.

Cast iron loft buildings in the Soho neighborhood of downtown Manhattan, New York City.

(New York, NY) — A special new type of resident has hit New York City: the non-existing resident.  Rental apartments across the city have become host to a ghost city where today, 247,977 units sit unoccupied.  That’s more than 11 percent of all rental apartments in New York City.

These numbers released from the Census Bureau’s Housing and Vacancy Survey shed light on an issue that has been growing significantly over the past three years.  The number of vacant rentals has grown by 65,406 apartments since 2014, a 35 percent spike in size.

Out of the near quarter-million empty apartments, some reside vacant with good reason. Nearly 28,000 are either waiting to be occupied by renters or owners, or are pending a sale. Some 80,000 are in the processing of being renovated, 9,600 are held up in court, and 12,700 belong to an elderly or ill owner who has put the apartment aside.

With that being said, there are still over 100,000 empty units- 74,945 temporarily or seasonally occupied and 27,009 not on the market for undisclosed reasons.  Several of the 75,000 temporary apartments have become get-away and vacation homes for the wealthy, a type of real estate that has since jumped from 9,282 in 1987.  The remaining 27,009 units are believed to be deliberately held off the market, perhaps for services like Airbnb.

Moses Gates of Regional Plan Association proposed a plan to bring traffic back to the empty units on the market: Have the city place a surcharge on temporary occupancy.  “Either the person moves in full time, the person pays the charge, or the person gives it up,” he advised. Then let the residents pour right on in.

Such a mediation would help, but would not completely fix the vacancy issue.  Growing vacancy has only continued to spread amidst a growing affordability and homelessness crisis in New York City.  More than 63,000 New Yorkers reside in homeless shelters and 30% of city households are spending over half their income in rent.

The hunt for a solution is still on-going.  Until one is resolved, vacancies will remain on the rise.

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