Eric Adams, who like me was a Republican until recently and is now Mayor of New York, won’t admit that his city has a housing supply problem. He’d rather blame immigrants (WABC-TV ).
During a community meeting on the Upper West Side this week, Mayor Adams said that the ongoing migrant crisis “will destroy NYC.”
“Never in my life have I had a problem that I didn’t see an ending to, I don’t see an ending to this,” Adams said. “This issue will destroy New York City.”
As someone who is old enough to remember the Big Apple’s Bad Old Days (1977-1993), I found this utterly insane. Even worse, he wasn’t alone; New York Governor Kathy Hochul came down on his side (same link).
Hochul said during a discussion Thursday that the state cannot “house the entire world”…
The number of immigrants stuck in the center of this nonsense is about 110,000 over the past year and a half. For the uninitiated, that’s a population increase of less than 1% per year.
Or, as Batman Returns’ character Max Schreck put it: “That’s not growth, that’s a mild swelling.”
So why are New York Democrats suddenly mimicking Donald Trump? They’d rather not admit their own failings in housing policy.
All across America, the bill for years – if not decades – of NIMBYism is coming due. Not even rural Montana is immune (WaPo ). The great instrument of NIMBY homeowners – i.e., local government zoning – can kneecap housing supply in any town, county, or city, including New York City (Gotham Gazette , emphasis added).
Less than one-sixth of New York City’s land is zoned explicitly for single-family homes only – less than most other cities, and certainly less than the suburbs. But over half the city lies within lower-density residential districts, many of which subtly prohibit multi-unit buildings through requirements for parking or yards or other controls.
Other neighborhoods have “shrink-wrapped” existing buildings with highly restrictive rules created over the years to prevent changes that would be “out of character.”
Both approaches effectively freeze current conditions in place, allowing new housing only as a costly minor exception.
Because of these rules, it’s impossible to replicate the existing two-family homes or garden apartments found in low-density neighborhoods like Riverdale or Bayside, and there are portions of the Upper East and Upper West Sides and Greenwich Village where the number of homes is actually declining.
It’s not that people don’t want to build housing; it’s that they’re not allowed to.
Of course, New York exacerbates the problem with rent control, which has been repeatedly found as a disincentive for building rental housing (Brookings ). Developers in New York must contend with this one-two punch – and have decided it’s more profitable to be developers outside New York.
If New York’s Democrats were serious about this problem, they’d take aim at exclusionary zoning and rent control. Instead, they take aim at immigrants.
Here at Bearing Drift, we make a point of calling out  stupid and immoral nativism whenever  it raises its ugly head. Shaun Kenney blazed that trail for his fellow Republicans. I guess I’ll have to do it for my fellow Democrats.