Manhattan Apartment Sales Are Surging—We Should Build More

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 3 2014 8:18 AM

Manhattan Apartment Sales Are Surging—We Should Build More

114135060
A lot of growth opportunities here

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for HBO

Apartment sales in Manhattan set a new fourth quarter record at the end of 2013, despite Bill de Blasio's promise to feast on the bones of the children of the city's financial elite. Anecdotal evidence suggests that foreign appetite for prime American real estate is a big piece of it. Anjli Raval quotes Pamela Liebman, CEO of the Corcoran Group: "Those from the Middle East, Russia, South America, China have been on an incredible buying spree and it is these sales that are driving prices."

With Manhattan apartments in such demand, the sensible step would be for the city government to authorize more of them.

Advertisement

Manhattan is extremely densely populated right now, but its population has actually fallen by more than 30 percent from where it was in the 1910 Census. So it's hardly unthinkable that it could become substantially more crowded again. Only instead of packing people into dismal tenements, you'd house them in nice shiny glass and steel towers. That would mean rolling back some of the broad brush historical preservation that keeps new buildings out of some choice neighborhoods, it would mean revisiting the decision to reserve land (near Penn Station, for example) for marginal office uses rather than housing, and of course it would mean broadly upzoning.

Given the level of foreign demand for New York apartments and Manhattan's relatively modest share of the city's overall population, this kind of broad supply-side reform probably wouldn't do all that much to increase middle-class affordability. For that you would have to look to Brooklyn and Queens. But embracing a super-charged luxury building boom in Manhattan would be both a jobs engine for the building trades and potentially a revenue machine, as the city could shift from a development paradigm currently dominated by tax breaks to one driven by regulatory reform.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.