Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Three-bedroom apartments in this city are like an endangered species
Christina Saldana’s 9-year-old daughter Hailey plays with a brown doll in the crawl space between the family’s sofa and the wall. She has a small pink box of toys crammed in the corner, and another next to the hot pink twin bed that the family of three shares most nights.
Saldana and her two daughters are cramped for space in their 650-square-foot studio apartment in the Bronx.
“The only door that I have right now is the bathroom,” Saldana, 27, says. “If I want to have a few minutes to myself, I would have to take a bubble bath.”
Saldana pays $1,100 for the studio in Parkchester, where the family has lived for four years. With her salary of $40,000, she wants to buy her girls more space as they get older. But she says there’s nothing she can find on the market that fits her needs.
New Yorkers have long lived in cramped quarters, from multiple generations of immigrants to large Orthodox families. But the rising rents that accompany gentrification in certain neighborhoods has caused even four-person families to squeeze into small spaces.
The price of a two-bedroom apartment in historically poor neighborhoods like Mott Haven in the Bronx has jumped 14 percent in the last year to a median of $1,850. Many working-class families are forced to make do in one bedrooms and studios. The city’s affordable housing program has tried to compensate for this in the last five years, building far more one bedroom and two bedroom affordable apartments than larger units. But some advocates say this in turn leaves larger families without options.
Of the 156,000 units of affordable housing built or preserved since 2014, over 100,000 units had two or fewer bedrooms, according to New York City’s OpenData. Almost 43,000 were two bedrooms. In comparison, only 14,700 three-bedrooms were built or preserved in the same timeframe, as were only 1,500 four bedrooms.
Developers in the city tend to favor studios and one-bedrooms, with over 25,000 units newly built since 2014, compared to just over 2,000 three-bedroom units built and only 88 four-bedrooms. On the other side, the city preserved over 30,000 two-bedroom units, over 27,000 one-bedrooms and only about 12,000 three-bedrooms.
In a neighborhood like the South Bronx, once known for its row houses that hosted generations of families, there are now predominantly apartments with two or fewer bedrooms. Data from the American Community Survey shows that the neighborhood lost about 400 units from with three or more bedrooms 2010 to 2017. It gained 4,311 with two or fewer bedrooms. And over a thousand of those were studios.
Overall, the city lost over 23,000 apartments with four bedrooms or more.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, Housing New York, largely mirrors the trends in the market when it comes to apartment size. The plan, which was released in 2014, focuses on housing needed by a growing demographic of one to two person households. The report cites 1.9 million one- and two-person households residing in the city in 2012 (more than 60 percent of all the city’s households), but only 1.25 million studios and one-bedroom apartments.