The results show how more housing, more types of housing, and more flexibility in how existing housing can be used could reduce financial stress for homeowners and renters, help seniors and young people find homes, and keep families and communities together.

More than half of New York City’s land is zoned for lower densities. Rezonings in these areas over the past several decades have increasingly tilted toward small homes. But these neighborhoods are not old-style Levittowns, populated by white, single-family homeowners and nuclear families with unchanging needs. Todays lower-density neighborhoods are dynamic, diverse communities, now straining against the limits that have been imposed on their housing.

If we expect policy makers not to cater only to the loudest, most empowered voices, but rather to make decisions that adequately address residents’ needs, we must give them a clear and complete picture of those needs.

So CHPC decided to ask residents directly: how well is your housing meeting your needs? We polled 805 residents of lower-density zoning districts about how their housing is and isn’t meeting the needs of their household.

Their responses paint a clearer picture of these neighborhoods and their housing needs.

Key Findings

  • In the past two decades, the population of low-density districts has shifted from being more white than the rest of the city to less white
  • 59% of low-density district residents rent their homes
  • 40% of senior respondents (age 60+) rent their homes
  • 41% of housing in low-density districts is in multifamily buildings; less than one-quarter is in single-family homes
  • 42% of single adults living alone in low density neighborhoods live in multifamily homes with 4 or more units – a housing type that cannot be built today in many of these areas
  • Citywide, 33% of households are adults living alone, but only 10% of survey respondents were adults living alone
  • 49% of Black and Asian respondents are most likely to share housing with unrelated adults or related adults other than a spouse, as compared to 31% of other racial/ethnic groups
  • 55% of single adults living alone expressed concern that lack of accessibility would make it difficult for them to continue to live in their homes
  • Over 40% of homeowner respondents said that they would like to add living space to their homes, including 58% of Latinx and 64% of Asian homeowners
  • 28% of respondents said that the main reason they moved to their current home was a change in the composition of their household – roughly twice as common as moving because of a job or to be closer to family
  • 25% of respondents reported being unsure whether there would be an addition to their household
  • 34% of households with children under 25 years old anticipate needing more space in the near future
  • 27% of couples without children under 25 expect the need to downsize or move to a less expensive home
  • 82% of renters and 67% of owners reported concern that an increase in the cost of owning or renting their homes would prevent them from living in their current home as long as they would like to
  • 89% of respondents who have recently considered moving in the last two years reported that it was somewhat or very difficult to find a home in the neighborhood that meets their needs
  • 86% of these respondents reported that affordability was the biggest challenge in finding a new home in their neighborhood
  • 33% of respondents reported having a family member or friend who moved out of the neighborhood within the last five years because they were unable to find a home that met their needs
  • 38% of Black respondents reported having to delay a rent or mortgage payment, as compared to 16% for other racial/ethnic groups
  • 25% of Black homeowners reported renting out one or more units in their home, as compared to 9% of other homeowners – suggesting that rental units provide an important source of income for Black homeowners
  • 46% of Black homeowners reported using their basements or cellars for living space, compared to 22% of other homeowners
  • 37% of Black homeowners reported having considered enlarging or renovating their homes, compared to 26% of other homeowners

For more detailed findings and CHPC’s methodology, click here to read the full brief.

This policy brief is part of CHPC’s One Size Housing Fits All initiative, which investigates how well the range of housing options available meet the diverse and dynamic needs of New Yorkers’ lives – and what we can do better to meet those needs.

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