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The Covid-19 pandemic laid bare many challenges related to housing in our region. It spared neither owner nor renter, and exacerbated housing insecurity.

The relative lack of supply often headlines those challenges. It might come as a surprise, then, that in 2020 new housing production held relatively steady.

Our region continues, however, to under-produce housing. Robust production across our region's highest density areas is unable to make up for declines in the suburbs. It's a phenomenon that holds short and long term consequences for affordability and economic competitiveness in our region. Here's what we know:

Data Spotlight:
NYC Metro 2020 Housing Production

In 2020, the NYC Metro issued building permits for 62,870 units of new housing, a slight decline from 2019, but still higher than recent years.

2020 Housing Production in NYC Metro

In 2020, the NYC Metro issued building permits for 62,870 units of new housing. Inner NJ permitted the most housing units, followed by NYC. Elsewhere in the region, permitted new units were concentrated in select areas, including those adjacent to the city and towns along the New Jersey and Connecticut coasts.

Housing Production in the NYC Metro 2000-2020

Though the NYC Metro permitted 11% fewer units in 2020 than in 2019 (70,500), 2020 marked the third-highest production year in the last decade (see endnote). NYC’s year-on-year decline in housing permits was the highest among NYC Metro subregions (-28%), but the city’s 2020 housing production remained on par with recent years.

Not everywhere declined – both Outer NJ and Low Hudson permitted more housing units in 2020 than in 2019, but NYC and Inner NJ continued to drive regional production. Those two areas combined accounted for 60% of the region’s housing stock in 2020, but 73% of NYC Metro housing units permitted from 2010 to 2020.

While the NYC Metro permitted the most new housing in total, its per capita production lagged behind many of the largest U.S. metros over the last decade.

Housing Production per Capita Top 15 US Metros

The NYC Metro permitted the largest number of new housing units of any major U.S. metro in the last decade, nearly 548,000 units. When compared to its population, however, housing permits per capita lagged other metros, mostly in the south and west, which were generally characterized by outward expansion from the center city. Unlike those fast-growing metros, the NYC Metro’s housing production concentrated in its highest density areas. NYC and Inner NJ combined permitted 29 units per capita, while the rest of the NYC Metro permitted just 15 units per capita. Overall, the NYC Metro permitted more new housing units per capita than Northeast and Midwest metros that, like our region, are older and more built out. For more about NYC Metro housing production in the last decade, visit NYC Metro Region Explorer.

NYC Metro housing production has increasingly relied on multifamily buildings, a pattern that was unchanged in 2020.

Metro Housing Production by Building Size 2000-2020

Prior to the 2008-2009 recession, a more diverse mix of single-family, small multifamily (two to four-unit), and larger multifamily (five or more units) building construction characterized the NYC Metro’s housing production. In the years since, 5+ unit multifamily buildings have accounted for a greater share of the region’s total permits—72% on average in the last decade versus 45% of all permits in the decade prior. 2020 was consistent with the rest of the decade, with 73% of the new units permitted in 5+ unit multifamily buildings.

NYC, adjacent areas (especially in NJ), and towns along the regional rail corridors permitted the most new housing, much of it multifamily. 

2020 Production by Building Size Map

 

Multifamily buildings represented the majority of housing production in NYC, Inner NJ, Lower Hudson and Connecticut in 2020. Most of the permitted units were located along regional transit corridors proximate to NYC and/or with access to Midtown Manhattan, except on eastern Long Island and in much of the Hudson Valley where production was more limited. In 2020, single-family home permits reached the highest level since 2007, the largest shares of which were in New Jersey, especially Ocean County (22% of NYC Metro single-family units permitted vs. 6% of NYC Metro single-family stock).

Over the last 40 years, multifamily production, especially in NYC and Inner NJ, has increased as single-family production has slowed region wide.

The pattern observed over the last two decades marks a continuation of production trends dating back to the 1980s. Parts of the NYC Metro that have larger shares of single-family housing have experienced decade-on-decade declines as single-family production has slowed. As we showed in The Geography of Jobs, the shifting geography of production is directly linked to the shift from single-family to multifamily production. NYC and nearby areas (especially in New Jersey) have been willing and able to build multifamily housing. The long-term shift is especially clear: NYC was 18% of the region’s permitted housing units in the 1980s, but 43% of permitted units in the most recent decade. Similarly, multifamily buildings with 5+ units were 28% of permitted units in the 1980s, but 72% of permitted units in the last decade.

For a 2-page summary of this Data Spotlight, click here.

This spotlight features DCP's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Building Permit Survey Annual data files and the NYC DCP Housing Database v20Q4 (for 2010 onward), as well as the U.S. Census Bureau 2020 Redistricting Data for per capita calculations. Data represent units authorized for construction via building permit filings and do not represent units completed or net change (i.e., account for demolitions). Permits intend to represent new construction only and do not include alterations or rehabilitations. Data are mapped by permit-issuing jurisdictions and do not represent the actual location of development within the boundaries of those areas. In 2015, the impending expiration of the 421-a tax abatement program drove unusually high permit activity in. NYC, and thereby the region overall.

Have a question about the analysis or want to get in touch? Email us.

Planning News from the Region

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has nominated Kevin Law, former president of the Long Island Association, as chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD), and Hope Knight, former president and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, as executive director of ESD.

The NYC Department of City Planning has launched the Population FactFinder, an interactive tool that provides a simple way to research the diversity of NYC's neighborhoods. You can also check out this story map on racial/Hispanic populations in the city.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed into law a bill that will stand up a commission to help determine strategies that can encourage local officials to relax housing and land use rules that hinder multi-generational housing options.

In Connecticut supply constraints have made first-time home ownership difficult. Some say the state’s eviction ban has also led to fewer rental vacancies and higher rents.

What We're Thinking About

After passing a $550 billion infrastructure bill (see here what it means for the NYC Metro), legislators in Washington continue to negotiate over a social spending bill. Though reduced in size it would still, as currently proposed, fund one of the largest affordable housing investments in history.

Since the late 90s America’s cities have been at the fore of our cultural imagination. But America’s suburbs haven’t gone away. Increasingly they are diversifying, expanding, and evolving. Some suggest a suburban revival is underway.

Cities and counties around the country passed a variety of initiatives to address housing issues. The success of these ballot measures has housing advocates planning for more such initiatives in 2022.

Housing activists scored a victory when 56% of voters in Berlin, Germany voted to expropriate more than 240,000 privately owned apartments in a ballot initiative aimed at combating gentrification.

Upcoming Planning Events from the Region

Neighborhoods Now: Bed-Stuy Restoration Corporation
Municipal Art Society
Wednesday November 17, 2021
1:00pm (virtual)

Have an event you want us to be aware of? Let us know by replying to this email.

Visit NYC Metro Region Explorer!

NYC Metro Region Explorer was recently updated with housing production, demographic, economic, commuting and other data. Visit to explore the latest trends, and don’t forget to bookmark the Explorer on your browser.

About Us

The Regional Planning Division was borne out of OneNYC, the Mayor’s long-term plan for the City, which highlighted the need for the city to work with neighbors across borders to promote a sustainable and equitable future for our shared region. You can read more about our team and our work here.
 

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