How to Make New York City Homeownership a Lot More Affordable

New York City’s housing crisis is multifaceted and all encompassing. We have people who are struggling to maintain the homes they own, to become a homeowner, and even to just pay their monthly rent all across the city and all at once. The path to solving this crisis is going to require a number of solutions, which means taking advantage of a number of opportunities for new development of all types.

Yes, we must build more affordable homes for New York’s most vulnerable and lowest-income residents, but we must also broaden our focus to ensure moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers are served as well. We know our families moved to communities in the Bronx to set a strong foundation and jump-start the cycle of generational wealth for their families. Our state and city governments have to continue partnering with trustworthy private sector partners to create more opportunities using shared resources to concentrate investment, build economic wealth through homeownership, and in turn support the growth of our local economies.

SEE ALSO: Public Private Collaboration Is Key to San Francisco’s Affordable Housing Growth

In New York City, the homeownership rate was at just 33.3 percent in 2021, according to the Furman Center, which is far below the national average of 66 percent. Those numbers are even lower within Black, Latino and AAPI communities. The same report found that Black homeownership rates are 27.6 percent and Hispanic homeownership rates are just 17.2 percent. In the Bronx, only 19.6 percent of residents own their own home — roughly just one-third of the share of Staten Islanders who do.

collage for Tom WEB How to Make New York City Homeownership a Lot More Affordable
Amanda Farías and Rick Gropper.

In the Soundview neighborhood of the Bronx, which Majority Leader Farías represents, Camber Property Group just broke ground on the first phase of Stevenson Square, a $1 billion affordable housing development on underutilized land at the Stevenson Commons Mitchell-Lama campus. This development will create affordable rentals for seniors and affordable co-ops for moderate-income families. 

The 58-unit fully affordable co-op buildings at Stevenson Square are being developed in partnership with Habitat for Humanity New York City and Westchester County. Designed by the award-winning architectural firm WXY, these co-ops will be priced and available to households earning between 70 to 80 percent of the area median income. This translates into an average sales price of $174,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, $207,000 for a two-bedroom and $237,000 for a three-bedroom. For comparison, according to real estate database Zillow, the average home value across the five boroughs is $732,594, showcasing how Stevenson Square’s prices are giving Bronx residents a true pathway to homeownership unlike any other.

The financing for the Stevenson Square affordable homeownership co-ops was made possible through the partnership of both the city and the state housing agencies, as well as $2 million in financial support secured by Majority Leader Farías, the largest municipal allocation made. Without intervention from the government to support private sector homeownership like this, families in our traditionally underserved communities, such as Soundview, may have never had an opportunity to purchase homes in New York City.

The benefits of homeownership are undeniable. Homeownership allows families the ability to manage their housing costs and increase their savings over time, creating pathways to build wealth and move up the economic ladder. 

On a larger scale, research shows that neighborhoods that have a diverse offering of housing types — with both renters and homeowners living together — make for safer, more stable communities. Different types of neighbors can offer varied perspectives on the issues facing their community, building toward the overall health, well-being and prosperity of the block. These types of benefits accrue to everyone in the community, not just the homeowners. 

We are writing to encourage more homeownership projects like Stevenson Square to be undertaken throughout New York City. The city and state should lean into these benefits and subsidize the creation of more homeownership opportunities, just as we subsidize the construction and preservation of low-income and supportive housing.

Affordable homeownership should be encouraged in larger developments taking shape across the city to take advantage of the economies of scale for construction, land acquisition and property maintenance costs, and to address middle-class New Yorkers’ urgent need for affordable housing.

At Stevenson Square we already have a long list of interested buyers from our existing Mitchell-Lama project asking on behalf of their children and grandchildren who want to move back to the neighborhood where they grew up and live closer to their extended families. We can only imagine if such an overwhelming response exists here in Soundview, there must be an overwhelming demand throughout New York City. Parents always dream that their kids will be more financially sound than they were. With more investments like this, that dream is becoming a reality for more Bronx families to continue growing together.

Amanda Farías (D-Bronx) is the City Council’s majority leader. Rick Gropper is a co-founder and principal of development firm Camber Property Group.