I promise to move on from this "affordable housing" thing after today, but meanwhile the Official Manhattan Contrarian Worst Possible Public Policy is just such an easy target. Even as I've been heaping ridicule all over the recently-opened Sugar Hill Development, approved during the Bloomberg tenure, new Mayor de Blasio and his team have been pressing forward aggressively with new and expanded "affordable housing" initiatives.
Out on the waterfront of Astoria, Queens, directly across the East River from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a developer named Alma Realty has proposed a large new project called Astoria Cove. Needless to say, the local pols -- both mayoral administration and City Council -- have used the proposal as a perfect opportunity to hit up the developer for their favorite form of graft, namely affordable housing. The developer started off proposing that 20% of his units would be "affordable," but that was just an opening offer. After some back and forth, there now appears to be an agreement that this will go up to 27%.
Joe Anuta of Crain's New York Business wrote up the story on November 13. He quotes the developer, John Mavroudis of Alma, as being pleased as punch about the deal: "This has been a very engaging process, and we look forward to the next stage and then moving ahead with construction." (One of the most disgusting things about government coercion is how they buy the expressed public support of people like Mavroudis, who in reality is very likely seething with anger over getting extorted in this way.) And then we have this from Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development:
"The big story is we got 25% of the units for free," said [Glen], who called the deal a paradigm shift. "They are permanently affordable at a range of incomes."
Yes, this is the level of mental midgetry that we are dealing with. They should change her title to Deputy Mayor for Economic Destruction.
The New York Post this morning is on to the story. In an editorial titled "Free-Housing Hokum," they point out that so much has been extorted out of the developer that it might well render the development uneconomic such that it won't get built at all.
Mayor de Blasio touted the agreement as a “game-changer.” Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen bragged to Crain’s that the city was getting a quarter of the units “for free.” We hope it all works out. But we’d feel better if the mayor recognized that, as with lunches, even in Progressive Land there’s no such thing as a free apartment.
Well, this project may well still get built, especially given today's very hot housing market in New York. But the broader question is, to what degree does New York's suite of housing policies --from affordable housing requirements to restrictive zoning to rent regulation to a crazy building code -- suppress housing construction and render housing less rather than more affordable? The best way to answer that is to collect comparative statistics on New York versus other housing markets where none of these policies exist.
A website called New York YIMBY ("yes in my back yard") has helpfully gone out and collected data on construction jobs as a percent of total jobs in various markets both in the U.S. and outside. Here is the chart:
Even with the current construction boom, New York only has construction jobs as about 2.8% of all jobs. That puts it in company with other slow growth big blue cities like Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. Meanwhile, high-growth cities like Dallas and Houston -- where they never heard of "affordable housing" mandates or rent regulation, and the zoning is wide open -- have construction jobs in the range of 5.5 - 7% of all jobs. YIMBY calculates that that translates into 200,000 missing construction jobs in New York. They don't go on to calculate how many missing housing units, but over the course of decades, it is many, many hundreds of thousands.
As always with de Blasio, the nagging question is, is he just too dumb to understand that his policies harm those he is supposedly trying to help, or is he actually smart and his agenda is to grow a permanently dependent class of people trapped in his affordable housing? I'm still going with option one (too dumb) but I'll take any contrary evidence that is offered.