New York City's luxury housing boom, which has been a trademark of the Bloomberg administration's distaste for building substantial housing for anyone but the superrich, has reached its astounding conclusion: massive condos owned by people so rich, they don't actually live there.
The New York Times lists the demographics of the new New Yorkers who have been lucky enough to find housing they can afford: "While their identities are not known, it is likely that many are the rootless superrich: Russian metals barons, Latin American tycoons, Arab sheiks and Asian billionaires."
Manhattan used to be a difficult place to build luxury housing, with zoning codes that discouraged skyscrapers outside of certain neighborhoods, as well as taxes that tried to keep the playing field at least somewhat level. But with two successive rabidly pro-development mayors, New York has now joined London and Hong Kong as a great place to buy an apartment, high in the sky, that you will hardly ever use. Only a quarter of new apartments will actually be occupied. Developers are also selling separate, smaller apartments that range from $1.5 million to $3.9 million, simply for the maids of the larger apartments.
“Manhattan’s superluxury condo boom, along with rocketing foreclosures in Queens and record homelessness, present an unobstructed view of accelerating polarization in this recovery,” said James Parrott, chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute (which the Times decided to point out is " supported by unions," because er, unions hate building booms?).
Are these people so rich, New Yorkers won't even know who their absentee neighbors will be?
Determining who is buying many of these properties is a challenge. The superrich often go to great lengths to shield their identities, requiring confidentiality agreements with builders and brokers and using anonymous corporate entities for purchases.
But this will give the city more money overall, and make building affordable housing easier, right? Not so quick. These buildings are so profitable, that they have completely distorted the local real estate market. This leaves developers with incredibly little incentive to build affordable housing anywhere near the city core, especially with a mayoral administration that seems satisfied to build completely un-affordable "affordable" housing.
These superrich, during the week or two when they actually are in their 68th story apartment, will be looking out on a horribly unequal city, but from way up there, will probably only be able to make out the faintest glimpse of their neighbors.