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

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.


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.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?


Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 6:49 PM God’s Oligarch One of Vladimir Putin’s favorite businessmen wants to start an Orthodox Christian Fox News and return Russia to its glorious czarist past.
Oct. 20 2014 6:48 PM Apple: Still Enormously Profitable
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.