Neighbors may assume that the high-rises cause the high rents. That's plausible if new buildings attract much wealthier residents, who in turn attract higher-end amenities that make a neighborhood more desirable... [NYU researcher Xiaodi Li] finds in New York that new buildings do attract more restaurants and cafes nearby. But she concludes that any effect those amenities have pushing up local rents is swamped by the power of new supply to push rents down. On net, she finds, for every 10 percent increase in housing supply, rents for properties within 500 feet drop by 1 percent, relative to other high-demand areas.


"Wealthy people are already looking to move into the neighborhood," Mr. Mast said of how he would explain his findings to a heated public meeting over such a proposal. "So we can build this building that will give them the sort of unit that they want to live in. Or if we don't, they'll take a unit nearby and renovate it."

That logic may be little comfort to longtime residents, particularly those concerned about neighborhood changes that go beyond rent prices. But it addresses at least one argument against new housing.


One caution comes from research by Anthony Damiano and Chris Frenier, doctoral candidates at the University of Minnesota who looked at new large-scale buildings built across Minneapolis. Like Mr. Mast and Ms. Li, they find that new supply helped ease rent pressure for higher-end units nearby. But at the bottom third of the market, they concluded that new buildings had the opposite effect, accelerating rents.

It's possible in some contexts that new market-rate apartments could cause one set of nearby landlords to curb their rents even as it causes another set to reassess how cheap their rents have been. It's even possible that lower-income renters may feel a bite from new construction at first, even if they may benefit from it over the long run

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