While many apartment buildings in New York are becoming taller and grander, some New Yorkers are wondering: Is condo building in their future?
Many readers in The New York Times’ comments sections saw condo development as a solution to the lack of affordable housing options, while others tried to differentiate between the concept of a neighborhood and the existing construction of a building.
Some readers didn’t think the problem of improving housing opportunities in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods could be solved through condominiums:
If I lived in the Bronx or Brooklyn or Queens I would think of condos as a symptom of society’s inability to offer decent housing for all people. Condos should only be built after a substantial effort to bring housing to people who need it. That is the goal of building affordable housing.
Others thought the question of improving affordable housing should be left to the city’s massive public housing authority:
Nationally we have a housing crisis caused by a dearth of affordable housing in some of our major cities. The problem can be solved and no one questions it. It is causing all of these horrible fires and auto accidents. There are 240,000 fire deaths per year. In New York City, that number is 49 per year. How come that is not an emergency? Why isn’t there a national campaign to improve public housing? I am not talking about housing for poor people. The poor need to be represented more. I am talking about restoring decent housing for everyone.
While some thought buildings could alleviate some of the struggle of living in a highly priced rental market, others thought that zoning laws should keep property values low in order to maintain affordable housing for the poorest residents:
In the city of New York, at least 85 percent of the land is zoned for residential residential housing. Many buildings, like the Grapes of Wrath that Woolworth had, can be saved if you take out the first floor of the building. … There are plenty of examples from other countries where housing prices will fall if you remove the lower floors. Many people do this; I think that people in the building sometimes are not even aware that that is possible. By bringing in units with lower ground floor rents you bring down the overall rental rate.
Others focused on the future of the preservation of the dense, urban areas they live in:
Well, there comes a point in everything where design does go out of fashion. Architecture and urban planning are definitely reaching that point … Here’s a thought for building houses on mass transit. Build them in or on a platform like farmers do. … Take out the expensive first floors and put in a bike rack.
Finally, there were those who thought higher prices for the best apartments are the best solution for the poorest residents of New York City:
The problem for some lower-income families is the price of the apartments they want to live in. They often have to accept a deal in which a condo is valued higher than the one they already own. Is that the way New York wants to go? You are not going to attract many young, poor people to live in high-rises. You will continue to attract young, rich people, so long as you can charge them rent. Otherwise, it won’t happen.