Legalize Housing

We have a housing crisis because we don’t build enough homes for the people who need them.

The problem is so complex that blah blah blah blahbity blah blah blah….blah blah….BLAH…

The solution is trivial: build more housing!

Building the multifamily housing we need is often ILLEGAL because of restrictive zoning laws, “preservation”, and court challenges from existing residents who believe their view, or their pastoral city experience, or their property values trump other people’s rights to homes. In supposedly liberal New York City, even approving low-income affordable housing on city land can take years.

Rent-stabilization clearly needs reform. While many struggle with rent every month, those at the top of the NYC income distribution pay an average of $1600 per month in New York’s most desirable neighborhoods. Often these apartments are out of proportion with family size (like a retired empty-nester with multiple bedrooms).

We also need to rethink well-intentioned “tenant protections” which are having the opposite effect by depressing the building of homes, and making the upkeep of others cost prohibitive. The punchline to universal rent control and tenant protections, unfortunately, is Stockholm, where tenants aren’t protected, they are trapped – either on a waiting list or somewhere on the outskirts (unless you know someone of course).

Its time to untangle the ball of yarn. Or burn it. The federal government can pressure localities like New York to amend laws restricting housing, something forward-looking jurisdictions like Oregon, Washington and Minneapolis are doing on their own.

New York politicians at all levels should be advocating to legalize housing. Gut zoning regulations, roll back “preservation” and approve projects such as the Soho rezoning, the Gowanus rezoning, and the Anable Basin project. For the past five decades we’ve built less housing than in the Great Depression. Let’s instead be like the 1920’s when we built so much housing — and rents fell so much — that when rent control lapsed, nobody cared!

, NYC built less housing in each of the last 5 decades than in the Great Depression

When you have abundant housing choice, landlords know they must offer competitive rent, and fix the refrigerator, and accept your housing vouchers, and not hassle you. Otherwise you’ll move down the steet, or somewhere with a better commute, or closer to your friends, or somewhere you and your partner can share. And they’ll be stuck with an empty space losing money. Abundant housing offers us more choice and is the best protection a tenant could ever want.