A Single Solution for New York’s Two Biggest Problems
And then there is displacement, fear of which looms large in the local imagination. As New York City has grown more desirable, it has experienced net population growth. While large numbers of New Yorkers leave the city every year, they are being replaced, and then some, by newcomers from elsewhere, including large numbers of high-skill professionals. Close to 9 percent of households in New York earn over $200,000, and it is no exaggeration to say that much of the rest of the city’s workforce caters to this slice of the population. This increase in high-end demand is, for most communities, the stuff of dreams, and it has redounded to the benefit of those fortunate enough to own property. However, New York City has failed to accommodate increased demand for housing by easing local land-use regulations that have, over the course of decades, drastically decreased the number of units that developers are allowed to build. That artificially constricted supply has prompted affluent households to look beyond neighborhoods that have traditionally been the city’s most desirable, and that offer professionals the shortest commutes, to neighborhoods in Brooklyn and elsewhere that had hitherto been dominated by families of modest means. If established neighborhoods in the urban core had built more housing, it stands to reason that there would have been less spillover of the well-off to outlying neighborhoods. Gentrification can be a positive force, to be sure. For one, by reducing the concentration of poverty, it can improve the life chances of the poor children who remain in gentrifying neighborhoods, by reducing their isolation from society’s middle-class mainstream, a dynamic I touched on in National Review in 2014.