Housing crisis

Suburbs are key to the housing crisis, but building their way out leads to growing pains

Many economic, political and business leaders have long pushed high-density, transit-oriented residential buildings as a way to lift New York and cities across the country out of the housing crisis.

Developing these projects to the scale required also requires an awful lot of literal digging, as communities trying to be part of the housing solution are discovering. New Rochelle, just north of the Bronx, is rolling out a $4 billion downtown development plan led by lead developer RXR that includes not only thousands of apartments but also infrastructure upgrades, like new water and sewer lines, and it’s not without its challenges. .

Bisnow/Miriam Room

LMXD’s Katherine Kelman and New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson at the Westchester & Fairfield Market Status Event in Bisnow on April 12, 2022.

“I’m not going to lie to you, growing pains are tough. If you live in and around downtown right now, if you work in and around downtown right now, it’s a challenge to get around,” New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson told bisnow‘s Westchester and Fairfield State of the Market event on Tuesday.

The county town of Westchester, home to nearly 80,000 people, offers a fast-track zoning approval process that allows developers to build towering apartment buildings in its downtown area and build them quickly, if they provide a community benefit.

“There is a lot of noise, there is a lot of disruption. But yet, it is absolutely necessary to secure our future, Bramson said. “And I think most people – even those who deal with day-to-day headaches – recognize that it all adds up to a future from which we are all going to benefit, that we are literally laying the groundwork for a better community ahead.

Creating better communities, especially those with enough housing, has become even more focused since the pandemic caused major societal upheaval. Soaring property prices, coupled with major rent spikes and the highest inflation in a generation, are putting pressure on governments and property owners to find a solution.

Improving livability and housing options in the New York metropolitan area, as well as the role the greater tri-state area could play in helping the five boroughs alleviate the housing crisis were pressing topics discussed during of the bisnow Tuesday event. The challenges are certainly not lacking, as many of these areas have their own affordability issues.

Reserved area

Bisnow/Miriam Room

Andrew Hardy of EMB Realty Corp., Joseph Chehova of Argent Ventures, Catherine Rinaldi of MTA Metro-North Railroad, and Bridget Gibbons of Westchester County

“We need at least 11,000 affordable homes across the county, every municipality needs it,” Westchester County Economic Development Director Bridget Gibbons said. “We’re really putting our thoughts together to figure out how we can incentivize more.”

Rising rents in New York are garnering particular attention, but out-of-town prices have also seen steep increases this year. White Plains has seen the fastest rental growth in the New York metro area, according to Zumper, with prices up 37.3% this month from the same time last year. A bedroom now rents on average for around $2,760 per month.

“New York City relies on us for the housing of its workforce. They can’t build the apartments they rent to the same standard as ours,” Gibbons said. “They really need us to meet the needs of the region.”

The Department of Town Planning found in 2019 that the lack of development outside the city is partly to blame for job growth far outpacing housing development. An analysis by New York University’s Furman Center found that New York has one of the most exclusive zonings in the country, which has slowed housing production, and described New York’s suburbs as “laggards.” national” in terms of housing development.

Governor Kathy Hochul had put two ideas on the table in her budget plan to address the problem. One proposal would have allowed multi-family housing on single-family lots, another would have allowed new apartment buildings near train stations. But she didn’t include any options in her official budget after being pushed back locally, by Politico, and they were shelved when the budget was approved last week.

Reserved area

Bisnow/Miriam Hall

Avison Young’s Will Suarez, RMS Cos.’ Patrick Carino, David Parisier of Paredim Partners and Max Pastor of Time Equities

In New Rochelle, however, the city government introduced a 90-day approval process in 2015 to expedite development, a system it says is “unparalleled” in the tri-state area.

Bramson said last year there was an adjustment to the zoning code to provide more outdoor services on the street and 3,000 additional residential units instead of some offices.

“Our zoning code allocates a substantial amount of space for offices – slightly less than before,” he said. “But despite everything, this objective and this vision are encompassed in the plans of the city. But it will be up to the market to execute it.

Joseph Graziose, senior vice president at RXR, agreed there’s still a lot of work to do in what he calls “the ground floor” in New Rochelle as well. Although RXR has developed several high-rise apartment towers, it said the downtown area still lacks vibrant street life.

“His [about] get people to a place where they can call home, but more importantly, a place where they can go out on the street, take a walk, take their family for a walk, walk their dog, have a cup of coffee,” he said. “We all need to collectively do a better job of creating that environment.”

Reserved area

Bisnow/Miriam Room

Stephen Simonelli of JLL, Katherine Kelman of LMXD, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, Bruce Berg of the Cappelli Organization and Joseph Graziose of RXR Realty

Still, from a housing development perspective, LMXD chief executive Katherine Kelman said a shortage of supply means demand for development in the suburbs remains strong, even if the political appetite does not. is not.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for rental housing, with single-family home prices going up,” she said.

LMXD is a new venture from L&M Development that creates mixed-income developments with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and public-private partnerships. The company, along with Wilder Balter Partners Inc., delivered a 28-story, $190 million New Rochelle residential building called Stella that has 380 units, 285 of which are mark-to-market properties starting at $2,000 per month. , reported New York YIMBY.

“There’s kind of a regional crisis in housing supply, so I think the need for rentals continues to be there,” Kelman said. at the regional level”.

The ability to easily get around the area will only improve, Catherine Rinaldi, president of MTA Metro-North Railroad, said at the event. She said the East Side Access project, slated to open at the end of this year, will bring 11 Long Island Rail Road lines into Grand Central Terminal, and is a benefit to the greater area — not just Long Island.

“I think it opens up the universe of this kind of connectivity between Queens, Long Island and Westchester that really doesn’t exist in a meaningful way right now,” she said.

Penn Access, which will bring the New Haven line to Penn Station in the coming years, will also streamline the entire area, she said.

“All these projects that unite the region in unprecedented ways… [and] offer many new opportunities for growth and vitality, which do not exist with the current network,” said Rinaldi.