Early numbers from the Census Bureau's Housing and Vacancy Survey show the unoccupied city has ballooned by 65,406 apartments since 2014, an astonishing 35% jump in size in the three years since the last survey.

Today, 247,977 units -- equivalent to more than 11% of all rental apartments in New York City -- sit either empty or scarcely occupied, even as many New Yorkers struggle to find an apartment they can afford.


But that still leaves more than 100,000 units -- 74,945 occupied temporarily or seasonally, and 27,009 held off the market for unexplained reasons.


Additionally, many of the 75,000 temporary apartments are pied-à-terres, weekend or vacation crash pads for the rich, up from just 9,282 in 1987.


Rewind again to 1987. The city, still recovering from decades of arson and abandonment, had 6,241 apartments that were vacant because they were too dilapidated to inhabit -- down from nearly 23,000 in 1975. The median asking rent for someone looking for an apartment to move into that year was $450 -- just 14% higher than median rent existing tenants paid.

Given the apparent benefits of bringing busted-up apartments back into use, it was possible to argue that encouraging more renovation and construction would be good for the city.

In 2017, the Census Bureau couldn't even locate enough dilapidated apartments to count -- but did find a median asking rent of $1,875, 30% higher than what a typical existing tenant pays. What's more, the vacancy rate for those expensive units is huge. Almost half the apartments available for rent in New York cost more than $2,000 a month -- and the vacancy rate for them is above 7%.


More than 63,000 New Yorkers are living in homeless shelters (almost three times more than in 1987), and 30% of city households are shelling out more than half their income in rent. What they and all New Yorkers need is not simply the construction of more housing, but better means to keep rents within reach.

This is starting to be brought back in line by a price crash, now. Of course, that won't bring down the vacancy numbers for a while, as new supply is added even faster.

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