Want an NYC apartment under $2,400? Good luck with that.

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By Dan Sears

The number of vacant New York City apartments dropped to its lowest point in more than five decades last year, with especially dire prospects for renters looking for affordable units, according to the city’s latest housing survey.

Just 1.4% of all apartments in the city were vacant and available to rent last year, the report found — the lowest rate since 1968. The vacancy rate was less than 1% for apartments priced below $2,400 a month, underscoring the city’s affordable housing crisis, Mayor Eric Adams said in a press release.

“The data is clear: The demand to live in our city is far outpacing our ability to build housing,” he said. “New Yorkers need our help, and they need it now. I am calling on all levels of government to help us meet this moment and ensure New York City remains a viable home for working-class New Yorkers.”

The data appears in a newly released summary of the city’s Housing and Vacancy Survey, a report issued by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the U.S. Census Bureau roughly every three years.

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Researchers found that just 33,000 of the city’s roughly 2.3 million apartments were vacant and available for rent during the survey period between January and June of last year.

The vacancy rate has plummeted since the last survey was compiled in 2021, after the agencies had postponed data collection during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic a year earlier.

The 2022 report revealed that about 4.5% apartments were vacant and available for rent, up from 3.63% in 2017. But less than 1% of all apartments priced below $1,500 a month were available at the time. The agencies attributed the overall rise to higher-income renters leaving the city during the pandemic.

The survey is used to inform housing policy decisions and determine the future of the city’s rent-stabilization system, where a panel of mayoral appointees sets annual rent increases. Under state law, a vacancy rate below 5% constitutes a “housing emergency” and allows New York City to keep the current rent regulations in place.

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A 2022 report commissioned by the Real Estate Board of New York, an industry group, found the city needs 560,000 new homes by 2030 to meet expected population growth.

The current scarcity of empty, affordable units is fueling rising rents and record-high levels of homelessness in the city, with low-income renters most affected by the shortage.

The survey found that less than 0.4% of units priced under $1,100 a month were empty last year and nearly 90% of New York City households earning less than $25,000 a year were considered “severely rent-burdened,” a federal designation meaning they pay at least half of their income on rent.

Adams and top city officials said the results underscore the need for new state laws that would encourage housing construction, including tax breaks for developers, as well as citywide changes to the zoning code to allow for more residential development.

“This latest survey result shines a spotlight on what we know as New Yorkers,” said HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión in a statement. “More people want to live and work in the greatest city in the world but are struggling to find housing that makes that possible.”

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