REBNY Issues New Report on Landmarking and Housing Production

The Research Department undertakes projects to investigate current residential issues of importance to the industry. Image Credit: REBNY

REBNY undertakes projects to investigate current residential issues in NYC. Image Credit: REBNY

REBNY report shows that housing production, particularly affordable housing, is drastically lower in landmarked areas in the five boroughs. In 2013, the Real Estate Board of New York conducted a study which showed that nearly 28 percent of Manhattan is landmarked and that fewer than 2 percent of new housing units built in Manhattan over a ten-year time period (2003-2012) were constructed on landmarked properties. On July 1, 2014, REBNY released a new report which analyzed properties and new housing activity in the other four boroughs over the same time period. REBNY found that although there are not as many landmark designations as in Manhattan, the creation of housing and affordable housing is also “sharply curtailed on landmarked properties located in those boroughs.”

REBNY found that 3.64 percent of the City as a whole is landmarked either as individual landmarks, or more commonly, as part of historic districts. REBNY’s report shows Manhattan having the highest proportion of landmarked properties at 27.71 percent and Staten Island having the smallest proportion of landmarked properties of .32 percent. The percentage of properties that are landmarked is much higher is certain neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. REBNY’s report attributes the high percentages to the result of the “proliferation of historic districts throughout the City.” REBNY also notes that designation of historic districts are becoming increasingly prevalent in neighborhoods outside of Manhattan with 79 percent of properties designated from 2003 to 2013 being from the outer boroughs. REBNY stated that if the landmarking practices of the last ten years continue it will only be a matter of time before the landmark percentages in the other boroughs approach those of Manhattan.

REBNY also collected data on the number of housing units constructed in the five boroughs from 2003 to 2012 and compared it with the number of housing units created on landmarked properties. The study showed that only .64 percent of all new housing units were created on landmarked properties throughout the city. The data collected showed that Manhattan had the largest number and highest percentage of housing units constructed on landmarked properties (998 units out of 1,318 citywide). REBNY stated, however, that although Manhattan had a seemingly large amount of housing created on landmarked properties, this figure represents less than 2 percent of all housing created in the borough during the ten-year period.

REBNY’s report also reviewed data on affordable housing constructed and renovated from 2003 to 2012, and focused mainly on new housing construction. REBNY’s data showed that throughout the five boroughs, 34,904 units of affordable housing were constructed during this time period, with only 100 of those units built on landmarked property. REBNY also stated that of the 100 units, 95 of them were built at Cedars/Fox Hall in the Longwood Historic District in the Bronx and the other 5 were part of a project on Historic Front Street built on land sold by the City. REBNY’s report stated that the Cedars/Fox Hall project was sold by the non-profit Police Athletic League for $10 and the project received significant amounts of financial assistance. REBNY argues that without financial assistance, affordable units could not be created on landmarked properties.

REBNY’s report concluded that the effect of landmarking on the creation of housing, and especially affordable housing, is widespread in Manhattan, and the effect is just as evident in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. REBNY concluded that if Mayor De Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan, which calls for the creation of 80,000 new affordable housing units within the next decade, is to be implemented; the City’s approach to designating historic districts and regulating landmarked properties must be taken into account. One of the suggestions made in Mayor De Blasio’s plan was the need to remove unnecessary barriers and delays to developing housing. REBNY believes that the increased design and construction costs, a lengthy and arbitrary review process, and height and density restrictions associated with developing landmarked properties further inhibits the production of affordable housing.

The Real Estate Board of New York: Housing Production on NYC Landmarked Properties (July 1, 2014).

By: Jonathan Manfre (Jonathan is a CityLaw Summer Associate and a Student at New York Law School, Class of 2015).

5 thoughts on “REBNY Issues New Report on Landmarking and Housing Production

  1. The Historic Districts Council Analysis of The Real Estates Board of New York’s ‘Housing Production on NYC Landmark Properties’ Study

    Using a selective comprehension of statistics, the study shows that the percentage of affordable housing created on landmarked property from 2003-2012 was much lower than on non-designated property. Given that the percentage of affordable housing developed over that period was only 16.94% of the total property development in New York City, their argument begins to look a little skewed.

  2. How to lie with statistics in spades!! REBNY should be ashamed of publishing such a skewed report, and CityLand should be ashamed for perpetuating it.

    Of course, there are going to be far fewer new housing units constructed in landmarked districtss than elsewhere. The whole purpose of landmarking is to CONSERVE community and neighborhood ambiance and character. Would anyone change Paris because it is virtually 100% landmarked? We are lucky to have so many neighborhoods of character and history in Manhattan. The idea of doing away with them or refraining from additional landmarking is not only ingenuous, it runs counter to everything that makes for a diverse and inhabitable city.

    Equally to the point, if, as REBNY claims, 28% of Manhattan is landmarked, that still leave 72% of the Borough available for new development. And if 3.6% of the total City is landmarked, that leaves 96% available for development. That hardly seems like a dearth of opportunity the real estate community.

    And let’s face, it is greed that drives REBNY and its members, not social conscience. There may be few units of affordable housing constructed in landmarked districts because there is little new construction of any kind in such areas. But there are thousands of affordable housing units being SAVED around the City through maintenance and renovation — far more than are being created through new construction.

    As for the REBNY gang, do they build affordable housing out of social concern as they imply in their study?. Far from it, they build 80-20 or 70-30 housing using subsidized bond rates, subsidized rentals and making huge profits off the 70% or 80% percent they rent or sell at market rates. It’s that gang that’s ripping off the great majority of New Yorkers . . . .

    And talking about affordable, as the Daily News reported, over at the “charitable development” known as Atlantic Yards, despite all the subsidies Bruce Ratner is receiving, “affordable” in half of that so-called housing means you are earning $100,000+ a year.

    Who’s kidding who? This City is run by big real estate, and that is exactly — and only — what REBNY represents.

    Al Butzel

  3. After years of resisting its implementation, all of a sudden the wealthy landlords and developers of REBNY are concerned about “affordable housing”? How convenient!

    Their selective data simply lends credence to the old adage: There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    On the other hand, the NYC Independent Budget Office, which has no stakes in the matter, conducted an exhaustive study that clearly demonstrated that property values rise 3% more per annum in historic districts compared to the property values in adjacent non-historic districts.

    Since REBNY has consistently worked to increase property values and had little concern for affordable housing, one wonders why they are suddenly on this rampage against historic preservation.

    It’s always a good idea to “follow the money”.

  4. REBNY provides statistics on how much affordable housing was recently built in historic districts, but does not comment on how much affordable housing may continue to exist in the protected old buildings it longs to replace. I am surprised to see such an extended report on the findings of a trade association without any critical or even balanced commentary. Is it summer vacation time at CityLand?

  5. Ms. Gough,

    CityLand spoke with the Historic Districts Council last week. And they will be submitting a commentary on this report in the coming days.

    We welcome other commentaries as well, and continue to to strive to report all sides concerning land use issues without providing a subjective slant. Our goal is for the reader to hear the information and make their own conclusion.

    We are thankful for this spirited discussion on this article by our dedicated readers.

    Brian Kaszuba, CityLand Editor.

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