Picture for the Homeless (PTH), a partner with NESRI in the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights, released a comprehensive count of New York City vacant buildings and lots that shows there is more than enough permanent housing resources to handle the homelessness challenge. The report, Banking on Vacancy: Homelessness and Real Estate Speculation, was the product of 295 volunteers, 1,475 hours of walking through New Yorks five boroughs, and a partnership with Hunter College.
The results were shocking: 3,551 vacant buildings, which could potentially house 71,707 people; and 2,489 vacant lots, which could be built upon to house another 128,874 people. The total permant housing capacity? 199,981 people could be housed. Currently, 40,000 homeless families enter shelter each year in the City. Even adding street homeless, folks doubled up, families in the domestic violence shelter system, or private shelters, the amount of housing in New York City is available to solve the problem of homelessness.
Unlike cities with depressed real estate markets where vacant property is created by a lack of demand, the City has the opposite problem. Demand is so high that landlords can rent the bottom floor of a building that is otherwise vacant to a commercial tenant and reap enough to cover costs and handsome profits. Floors above the tenant that could house people remain vacant. In other instances, buildings sit vacant as owners await higher returns. Ironically, two days after release of the PTH count, the New York Times "suppelemented" the report by comparing neighborhood housing costs for those looking to buy in the City.
Nationwide, there are an estimated 3.5 million homeless persons and 18.5 million vacant homes.
Intro 48, a City Council initiative that would require such a count annually in New York City, is being pushed by PTH, and is need of city voter support. To date, the City has resisted, citing the cost of such a count. PTH's report not only disproves the cost argument, but reveals the real issue: the high cost that such information poses to the status quo. Contact PTH to support their campaign.