Early numbers from the Census Bureau’s Housing and Vacancy Survey show that the number of unoccupied apartments throughout New York City has grown significantly over the past three years–a whopping 35 percent to 65,406 apartments since 2014, when the last survey was taken. As the Daily News puts it, “Today, 247,977 units — more than 11% of all rental apartments in New York City — sit either empty or scarcely occupied, even as many New Yorkers struggle to find an apartment they can afford.” One reason for the growing vacancy rates, as the article states, is the city’s high rent, which has risen twice as fast as inflation.
Of the 247,977 empty units, almost 28,000 have been rented or sold but not yet occupied, or are awaiting a sale. Nearly 80,000 are getting renovated, 9,600 have been tied up in court, and 12,700 are vacant because the owner is ill or elderly. Still, that leaves over 100,000 units, and the census finds 74,945 are only occupied temporarily or seasonally, with 27,009 held off the market for unexplained reasons.
Many of the 75,000 temporary apartments are pied-à-terres–think weekend or vacation homes for the rich–a number that’s expanded from 9,282 in 1987. As for that unexplained 27,009 units, housing advocates believe that landlords are deliberately holding apartments off the market, perhaps in order to rent them out on services like Airbnb.
Then, of course, the vacancy rate for the ever-pricier luxury pads hitting the market is growing. According to the News, almost half the apartments available for rent cost more than $2,000 a month, and the vacancy rate for them is above 7 percent.
The city’s vacancy rate has long been a controversial–and somewhat elusive–number. Last year, the online real estate marketplace Ten-X predicted a threefold spike in New York City’s apartment vacancy rate that could exceed 11 percent by the end of 2018, as thousands of new apartments hit the market. But their data was questioned, and it was believed that the vacancy rate would continue to hover around four percent.
Regardless, growing vacancy is a problem in a city with an ever-growing affordability and homelessness crisis. One suggestion to lessen the percentage of empty, or rarely used apartments? Moses Gates, of the Regional Plan Association, suggested to the News that the city slap a surcharge on temporary occupancy. “Either the person moves in full time, the person pays the charge, or the person gives it up,” he told the paper.
[Via the NY Daily News]