NYC vacancy rates are so low and affordable housing is so sparse that a super PAC formed to elect politicians to build more homes

In early February, vacancy rates in New York City hit rock bottom at just 1.4%. That’s the lowest vacancy rate on record since the city started tracking the measure in the 1960s, according to NYC Housing Preservation and Development.

With so few homes available—and affordable homes at that—housing advocates in the city have formed a super PAC that aims to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get pro-housing politicians elected. The group, called Abundant New York, is especially focused on the 2024 state legislative races and 2025 municipal elections since they have the most potential for flipping seats in favor of pro-housing candidates. 

“New York has some of the most segregated and exclusionary zoning and land use practices in the country,” Abundant New York says on its website. And the city is “not building nearly enough new homes to meet demand, leading to soaring rents and displacement pressures.”

To put things in perspective, housing experts consider a “healthy” or normal vacancy rate to be in the 5% to 10% range. Lower vacancy rates really only benefit landlords who can up rent prices to match demand. Indeed, NYC rents are about 17% higher than they were before the pandemic, according to the New York City Comptroller.

“More than half of all households citywide are classified as rent burdened, with rent consuming more than 30% of pre-tax income,” according to the NYC Comptroller. “Moreover, for those looking for a new place to rent in the city, affordability is even more of an obstacle—especially for people migrating in.”

Abundant New York is already making moves

Abundant New York is the electoral arm of Open New York, a nonprofit group formed in 2016 that advocates for more housing development in the city. Not only will Abundant New York work to elect more pro-housing candidates, but it will focus on squashing candidates the group believes aren’t doing enough to support more housing development. 

The group has already announced three endorsements: Micah Lasher for the 69th assembly district; Rachel May for the 48th senate district; and Sarahana Shrestha for the 103rd assembly district. Each of these three candidates have deep-rooted experience in housing development and policy. Lasher, for example, served as director of policy for the state of New York under Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has called NYC’s housing crunch a “crisis” and in February called for more housing construction in the city.

New Yorkers “can’t afford to wait for solutions to the housing crisis,” Hochul said in a statement. “The only way to fix this crisis is to build our way out.”

NIMBYism in New York

Building new housing in New York has been a touchy subject—especially in certain neighborhoods reluctant to lose the character of their neighborhoods. And for a long time, it’s worked. Many of the new developments built in the city were in predominantly Black or low-income neighborhoods because white, wealthy residents in some of the city’s richest pockets had enough political backing to prevent new developments that could detract from the “character” of the neighborhood. These folks are infamously called NIMBYs (“not in my backyard” anti-development residents), but Abundant New York is attempting to strip them of their political power in favor of new housing developments across the city. 

Indeed, Brooklyn’s borough president Antonio Reynoso told Fortune’s Alena Botros the city is in a full-blown housing crisis, “and the character of your neighborhood is not more important than putting people in homes.”

Abundant New York isn’t the only major group to push for more housing. In mid-February, Reynoso and City Councilman Erik Bottcher of Manhattan formed a “league” of pro-housing officials to support more apartment construction. In February, they sent an invitation to 160 state and city politicians to meet this month, but Reynoso said critics weren’t allowed.

“We do not want you if you’re just a straight NIMBY,” Reynoso said, according to The New York Times.

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