New Report Quantifies Long Island’s Housing Needs, Offers Solutions

Regional Plan Association, HR&A Advisors Inc., and the Rauch Foundation released new research this week highlighting the high demand for multifamily housing on Long Island. The report, funded by the Rauch Foundation as part of the Long Island Index, uses RPA’s regional population projections to estimate future housing demand on Long Island, and suggests possible strategies for creating an adequate supply of new housing.

The study found that although Long Island has recently started building more rentals, co-ops, condominiums and other multifamily homes than it has in previous decades, a big gap still exists between what is being produced and what the region needs. RPA projects that Long Island could gain 158,000 households by 2030. Yet if housing construction continues along recent trends, only 64,000 new housing units are likely to be developed in the same time period,meeting only 40% of the anticipated need.

By failing to build enough housing to meet projected demand, Long Island is essentially keeping housing prices high. Young adults are currently forced to leave Long Island due to a lack of affordable options. Some of the smallest one-bedroom apartments recently built are only affordable to those earning six-figure incomes. HR&A projects that roughly one-third of all new households on Long Island will earn between $50,000 and $125,000 in 2030, – strongly highlighting the need for more options for this income bracket.

In addition to being unaffordable to a large portion of the population, development on Long Island isn’t meeting Americans’ changing housing preferences. The study found that by 2030, more than two-thirds of new households coming to Long Island will prefer walkable, mixed-use communities. RPA estimates that the population of 25 to 44 year olds in Long Island could increase by 17% in the next 15 years, an age group that prefers areas with amenities, walkability and character. Additionally, Long Island’s baby boomers will be aging, increasing the population of those over 65 by 54% in the next 15 years looking to downsize from their single-family homes. If Long Island continues to build predominantly single-family homes, these households might choose to live elsewhere.

In order to accommodate the anticipated growth, RPA and HR&A analyzed various zoning, policy, and development strategies. Recommendations included increasing building heights and how much of a lot can be developed, while also easing regulations on accessory dwelling units - also known as “grandma flats” - in appropriate areas of single-family neighborhoods. The study also stresses the importance of infrastructure investments to support new multifamily development. By making the necessary regulatory improvements, communities across Long Island can reduce project failures, lower development costs, and ultimatelylower housing costs.

This research grows out of earlier RPA research highlighting Long Island’s housing affordability crisis. To learn more, see RPA’s 2013 report “Long Island’s Rental Housing Crisis,” or RPA and Long Island Community Foundation’s 2015 research at the Institute for Attainable Homes.

-- Sarah Serpas