New York Has More Vacant Buildings and Lots Than It Has Homeless People

Categories: Homeless, Housing

HomelessStats2.jpg
Banking on Vacancy
New York City has more than enough vacant space to provide housing for every homeless person in the city, according to a study released yesterday by Picture the Homeless and Hunter College.

The study represents the first effort to catalog New York's vacant spaces, and includes a survey of community districts from all five boroughs, encompassing roughly a third of the city.

Organizers say the very existence of the study is a refutation of City Hall's position, which has been that any attempt to quantify the number of vacancies would be prohibitively expensive.

But using volunteers, Picture The Homeless managed to survey a third of the city for about $150,000, far less than millions City Council members predicted it would cost the city.

"There is space in New York City for every single New Yorker to have a decent place to live," said Owen Rogers, a member of Picture The Homeless.

Tom Angotti, a Hunter Professor and director of the Center for Community Planning and Development, ran the numbers for the study, which identifies two major kinds of vacant buildings: First, there are buildings, often in poorer areas, that have been abandoned by their landlords.

"And then there are a lot of vacant buildings in areas you might be surprised at, that are very classy areas, very high-rent areas," Angotti said. "They're there for speculation. Landlords have consciously held units off the market."

In these areas, ground-floor retail rentals often pay enough to give landlords substantial profits even as they hold the upper floors vacant, waiting for the most profitable conditions to rent to residents, Angotti said.

In Manhattan's Community District 2, which includes Soho, volunteers identified 263 vacant buildings, enough to house 8,109 people.

Of course, the fact that private landlords have more than enough space to end homelessness in New York doesn't mean they're about to turn their luxury lofts over to formerly homeless occupants.

"It's not like there's some law that would let that happen," said Sam Miller of Picture the Homeless. "This is more about changing the conversation, much the same way that Occupy Wall Street has changed the conversation. We've known for a while how many people without homes there are. Now we know how many homes without people there are too."

Some politicians appear ready to start that new conversation. Speaking at a press conference to unveil the study yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, said the new report shines a light on the city's continuing drift towards becoming a playground for the affluent with no room for the poor or middle class.

"If you gave people easy access to this information, people are going to be pretty shocked at what's not happening as it relates to affordable housing," Stringer said. "This is above all else a political document. This is a document that you must use to shake up the city's political establishment."

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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11 comments
brodriguez11223
brodriguez11223

to hell with all of your comments they are people two you dont know shit you all dont know why these people became homeless they were once like you and me god created this world for every one you might be down and they might be up there one day you all are not god so stop judging these people you dont know what they be through.

Thesmellykid3
Thesmellykid3

So if you owned a building you should just open up the door and let the homeless in to crap and piss all over the place and run the building into the ground?

Cliff Chesley
Cliff Chesley

What ever you do.. don't give them a place to sleep! F### every Mother F### associated with this bullshit! One word. GREED!

Myriam Bretiman
Myriam Bretiman

Having empty buildings in New York city doesn't mean much for the homeless, unless these empty buildings are owned by the city or the state.  Otherwise, private owners of the property in question have the legal right to do whatever they want with it, as long as they are not breaking any laws. 

Fredric L. Rice
Fredric L. Rice

Time to start dragging the rich criminal elite and their politician pets from their offices, mansions, and limos and giving them fair trials in the streets.

Strelnikov
Strelnikov

I always thought the situation was like that - space does exist in the City for the homeless to get off the street, but the economic system is against it.

We need to change the system.

Fuckyou
Fuckyou

HEY WOW FUCK EVERYTHINGI live in a piece of shit building that's being priced at over a million dollarsWe have no support beamsIf the upstairs neighbors have one more party, their next pogo dancer is going straight through to the basementI hope more hipsters pile into the cityIn fact, I hope ALL the hipsters pile into this piece of shit city, so real estate can keep skyrocketing, and anyone who owns an inch of land can keep making bank by charging people to sleep on it.

Andrew Kay
Andrew Kay

 That is not the point. The law enables them to keep their properties empty, but "market forces" encourage them to. We operate a society which rewards and protects these landlords for keeping their properties empty - people are living on the streets because that way is more profitable for the rich. It's time to admit that the incentive of private profit, by itself, cannot create a world we want to live in.

Strelnikov
Strelnikov

Two points:

The homeless aren't hipsters.

You need to get on those upstairs neighbors.

Good luck, Archie Bunker.

Fuckyou
Fuckyou

Wow you have ace reading skills

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