Second Homes' Big Footprint

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Most Americans will never have the luxury of a second home, and yet non-primary residences have a big impact on our communities. There are nearly 300,000 non-primary residences in the New York City metropolitan region. Many are seasonal beach getaways or mountain retreats. Some are convenient pads for professionals who frequently do business in the city, while others are lucrative investments for the global elite. More than 48,000 second homes are located in Manhattan, meaning that some 7% of housing units below 96th Street are empty for much of the year. As our map below illustrates, other large concentrations of second homes can be found where one might expect – the Hamptons and the barrier islands of Long Island, the Catskills and the Jersey Shore.

The high-end housing market is booming in Manhattan, as ultra-luxury condos lure the very well-heeled. Many buyers are looking for a place to park excess cash rather than to set up house, leaving the buildings very quiet for those who do live there year-round. Their growth poses a conundrum for state and local government, who are missing out on tax revenue from these properties. On top of that, online marketplaces like Airbnb have allowed those with extra housing to become micro-hoteliers, confounding local regulators.

Second homes are a touchy subject in big U.S. cities, where a large share of the population pays at least a third of its income for housing. Yet it’s important to acknowledge second homes without demonizing the people who can afford them. The properties make up a significant part of our built environment, and have implications for issues from governance to climate change. As the region gets more serious about building resilient and equitable communities, second homes deserve a place in the conversation.

Map showing second homes in NY metropolitan region

Data: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey