Housing Policy in New York: Myth and Reality

April 4, 1990 • Policy Analysis No. 132

Despite having spent billions of dollars on housing, New York City has more homeless people, more tenants in subsidized quarters, and more dilapidated and abandoned housing than any other city in the country. It spends 10 times more on housing than the total spent by the 10 next largest cities in America, yet its housing problems put it in a league with many cities in the Third World.

The so‐​called housing crisis has been grist for the mill of endless articles, academic reports, and congressional hearings. Unfortunately, many people fail to realize that the “crisis” is mainly self‐​inflicted. New York, with its welter of building codes, rent regulations, and taxation policies, has put major roadblocks in the way of maintaining or building low‐​cost housing.

The plight of the homeless has been decried and depicted graphically on television, in magazines, and in the daily press, yet the media have ignored government’s role in creating the problem. Instead, with much hand wringing, a parade of advocates for the homeless has claimed that low‐​cost housing would put an end to the misery. Why is a miserly city refusing to meet the need?