The topic of whether New York City has been shortchanged by the 2010 census is certainly a hot button issue. The mayor continues to insist the census takers missed as many as 200,000 residents because they could neither count people in apartment buildings nor find immigrants who had no interest in being enumerated.
Now comes a very provocative piece by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, an expert on cities, which suggests the Bureau of the Census might be right.
Mr. Glaeser, in a piece on The New York Times' Economix blog, looked at the number of new housing units created in the city in the last decade. He notes that despite the supposed building boom, New York added only 170,000 new housing units in the 2000 decade, an increase of 5.3%.
Typically, he adds, population growth lags the number of new housing units by a couple of percentage points because household size is shrinking. He finds lots of evidence to support the idea that growth is in line with housing creation, which means the less-than-expected 2.1% increase is on the mark.
If true, the Bloomberg administration should start doing some hard thinking. In part, the housing shortfall is the result of the financial crisis that delayed major development initiatives at Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards, Coney Island and Willets Point, to name only a few. The administration is not responsible for that.
Other administrations, however, would be considering measures to spur more construction, as Ed Koch did in the early 1980s. So far, the administration isn't interested in that approach; maybe it is time for a change in plan.
Why would we need more construction if many of the already built units are sitting empty? Why are taxpayers expected to foot any of the bills for Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards, Coney Island and Willets Point - all private developments? How about tax incentives to get people to stay here instead of for developers who help drive them out?