Editor's Note

Editor’s note: It’s housing, stupid

New rental vacancy numbers should spur political leaders to act fast to build more units.

Apartment buildings in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Apartment buildings in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. NicolasMcComber

Political consultant James Carville coined the expression, “It’s the economy, stupid,” during the 1992 presidential election while working on Bill Clinton’s successful campaign against incumbent George H. W. Bush. Carville used this blunt and rude statement to keep campaign staff focused during the race. Some may say reducing crime is the top priority today, but while that should be a priority, I’ll argue that in New York, the most important issue is housing.

Ethan Geringer-Sameth reported on the latest New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, released by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development Thursday, which found the number of available, habitable homes dropped to just 1.4% of the total rentable housing stock. That represented just 33,000 available units out of a total of 2.35 million habitable units in the first half of 2023 across the five boroughs.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed a new affordable housing incentive for developers that would be similar to the now expired 421-a. Last week she also announced that 20 pro-housing communities will get first dibs to $650 million in grant funding to help her goal of building or preserving 100,000 units of affordable housing over the next five years. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has his “moonshot” goal of building 500,000 new housing units over the next ten years and has touted that the city in 2023 closed on the creation of a record 14,227 new affordable homes. These are bold first steps toward addressing a crisis that has impacted low- and middle-income New Yorkers most. However, we still need a greater sense of urgency: It’s housing, stupid.