We need access to a potent tool if Long Island is to protect its future: a simple state designation recognizing the economic power of multifamily rentals.
It has long been established that Long Island is in dire need of more affordable rental housing. Its merits are self-evident. The availability of more multifamily rental housing prevents the loss of young people – the brain drain – whose exodus to other parts of our tri-state region and the country undermines the economy, the viability of local businesses and our very future. Without access to an educated, dynamic workforce, there is no means to address the demographic trends that should be of concern to everyone, from elected officials to your local business owner. Equally important, affordable rental housing allows Long Island’s “Baby Boomer” population, with their considerable disposable income, to remain on the Island, further contributing to our economy.
According to the Long Island Multifamily Housing Study, Nassau and Suffolk counties are short nearly 72,000 multifamily housing units of what is needed. The report reveals that, even under the most optimistic scenarios, in 15 years, Long Island will be 95,000 multifamily housing units short of projected demand.
Should this trend continue, what is currently a Long Island crisis will become a demographic catastrophe, as no region can survive if residents race for the exits because they can’t find a place to live.
The power exists, right now, without intervention from the New York State Legislature or the governor, to implement changes that will begin to solve the crisis and prevent future disaster. The New York State Authorities Budget Office (NYSABO) simply has to change a rule within the Public Authorities Reporting Information System (PARIS) that does not currently recognize the economic benefits of multifamily housing development.
As set, the rule only measures outcomes related to job creation and, by doing so, actually discourages regional Industrial Development Agencies from incentivizing these desperately needed projects. If the NYSABO amended the PARIS reporting requirements and began including a “housing units created” metric, as an additional means of documenting the considerable economic benefits generated by multifamily rental housing, multifamily housing developers would be encouraged to launch more housing starts.
The development of multifamily rental housing creates immediate and long-term employment opportunities, will spur spending and growth, and create multiplier effects throughout the local economy. While these effects are obvious where multifamily rental housing construction is sited, data shows that multifamily housing construction will also positively touch neighboring communities, as once occupied, these new residents will seek new places in which to spend their disposal income. That activity serves as an important revenue source for local governments, enabling them to increase expenditures on essential services. This cannot be more evident by the revitalizations that already occurred in the Patchogue, Farmingdale and Mineola communities.
There is more at stake than just tax revenue and economic impact. It’s our future. And does the NYSABO wish to play a role by helping keep our young, motivated and educated workforce on Long Island?
Matthew McDonough, chief executive officer of the Babylon Town Industrial Development Agency, said it best when he related to me that the current need for affordable multifamily rental housing as being similar to how Long Island went through its initial transformation post-World War II – “This is Levittown 2.0. The future of suburbia is the construction of affordable multifamily rental housing. We need to provide the future generation a place to live.”
Creating a coalition of public and private support, including elected officials, for the purpose of advocating changes in how the NYSABO computes the contribution of multifamily housing starts, is a vital and important next step. We already have a number of participants but additional support is key. We need more people to step up and join us in our efforts to protect the current and long-term economic viability of Long Island through the state’s acknowledgment of economic fact.
Kyle Strober is the executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island.