NYC reports lowest rental vacancy rate since 1960s amid ongoing housing crisis

The amount of vacant rental apartments in New York City last year plummeted to the lowest levels they’ve been in decades, with cheaper units particularly hard to come by, a new report found.

The city’s net rental vacancy rate dropped to just 1.4%, the worst it’s been since 1968. Between January and June of 2023 a little more than 33,200 units were up for grabs out of a total stock of 2.35 million occupied and available rentals, according to initial findings from the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, released Thursday.

The report has been compiled approximately every three years since 1965 by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. The last recorded vacancy rate was 4.54% in 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The data is clear: the demand to live in our city is far outpacing our ability to build housing. New Yorkers need our help, and they need it now,” Mayor Adams said in a statement. “While our administration continues to create a record number of affordable homes and helps more New Yorkers move into these homes than the city ever has before, we need more tools to house our neighbors, protect tenants, and deliver the affordability New Yorkers deserve. I am calling on all levels of government to help us meet this moment and ensure New York City remains a viable home for working class New Yorkers.”

The housing crisis has come to the fore in recent years as city rents have reached record highs and half of New Yorkers struggle to afford the basics.

There was a particular strain on middle- and working-class renters, according to the survey: Nearly all low-income New Yorkers spent more than 30% of their income on rent, making them “rent burdened.”

At the same time, relatively affordable apartments became harder to find: just 0.4% of units on the market in 2023 went for under $1,100 and less than 1% were under $2,400.

The vacancy survey did include a few silver linings. There was a net gain of 60,000 units between 2021 and 2023, a 2% increase — though that was far outpaced by demand.

It comes as Adams is making a push for his “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity” proposal, which includes zoning changes that would allow for up to 100,000 new apartments to be built. He’s also been calling on lawmakers in Albany to enact several measures including the renewal of a construction tax break.

“There’s only one solution to our housing shortage: build more supply,” Gov. Hochul said in a statement following the survey’s release. “This new report, revealing the lowest vacancy rate in six decades, is the latest reminder that we can only build our way out of this crisis — and there’s no time to waste.”