In New York City we have a dizzying array of taxpayer-subsidized “affordable housing” schemes: low income public housing; mixed income public housing; “limited equity” co-ops; the so-called “Mitchell-Lama” program; 80/20 and 70/30 “inclusionary zoning” requirements; and plenty more. Something around 1 million people live in one type or another of these subsidized projects. That would be about 1 person out of eight in the City.
The whole idea with these schemes is that each resident pays substantially less than what would be the market rent for the same unit. After all, by hypothesis, we have a “crisis” of housing cost, where market rate apartments are priced too high for many people to afford. Therefore, we need politicians to provide taxpayer-financed subsidies to create a large tier of the “affordable” apartments. The actual rents for each “affordable" apartment are then determined by a political rather than a market process. In the case of the low-income projects, the rent is set as 30% of the tenant’s income, meaning that a tenant with no income could pay as little as nothing in rent, even when the apartment is in a desirable location. Other apartments in different programs first have a rent set, and then are allocated to people whose income has been determined to be appropriate for that rent. Sometimes these politically-determined rents might be relatively close to a market rent for a comparable apartment in the same area; but other times the “affordable” apartments are located in desirable areas, and the local market rent for a comparable apartment could exceed the “affordable” rent by a factor of five, ten, or even more. Such disparities occur, for example, in desirable Manhattan neighborhoods, as well as in waterfront areas in Manhattan and also Brooklyn.
So we have large numbers of apartments that would have market rents of perhaps $3000 up to even $10,000 per month, going for perhaps $500 to $1500. Of course, long waiting lists develop for these subsidized apartments. Some designated political gatekeeper gets to decide who gets the next apartment when it becomes available. Now, what is the chance that such a process can proceed for years and decades without pervasive corruption? . . .Read More