One reason it is difficult for policy makers, and the market, to digest these astounding numbers is our confused definition of household. Since the 1950 census, “household” has been synonymous with “family.” Data splits households into family and nonfamily categories, relegating single people and their housing need to an oddity. This idea of household equaling family also keeps our housing supply frozen in the 1950s and even permeates our housing vocabulary, as in “multifamily buildings” and “single-family homes.”
To address these challenges, the Citizens Housing & Planning Council created a more realistic, demandbased analysis of how our population really lives. We found that a quarter of all New York City homes and apartments are being shared in some way. Adult children are staying in the family home for longer. Older single relatives are moving in with family members. Strangers are banding together to find housing through Craigslist, creating unnaturally high household incomes, which distorts the housing market by pushing up rental prices.