The Elusive Dream of Owning a Home in New York City
Good morning. It’s Tuesday. Today we’ll look at why homeownership has been pushed even further out of reach for middle-class people in New York. We’ll also look at the trial of a Jamaica preacher who, prosecutors in Manhattan say, tried to recruit women for ISIS and marry them off to jihadists.
Credit…Winnie Au for The New York Times
Buying a home in New York City was already hard before the pandemic pushed homeownership even further out of reach for many. Between the second quarter of 2019 and 2022, as the typical home price rose to nearly four times the median family income nationally, the corresponding number in New York City has remained above nine, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Such a statistic reinforces worries about the city’s long-term health. As owning a home becomes even more expensive, more middle- and working-class families could be driven out, and racial wealth disparities could widen. I asked my colleague Mihir Zaveri, who covers housing in New York, to explain.
For middle-income families who’ve been saving and dreaming of buying a home, what obstacles now loom larger?
It’s long been very difficult for middle- and low-income families to buy a home. But a few things have changed in recent months. Home prices have gone up, as many people moved to buy homes early in the pandemic. Inventory — essentially the number of homes on the market — has gone down.
And now, interest rates are rising, making monthly mortgage payments more expensive.
According to one analysis by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, the income required to afford a home in, for example, the middle third of the New York-area market in September 2019 was about $117,450, assuming a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and some insurance and property tax costs. That has increased to almost $187,000 as of September 2022.
If homeownership is increasingly beyond the reach of would-be buyers, how will that change the city? Will it affect the city’s long-term health?
Part of what gives New York City its diverse, thriving energy is the constant churn of people who move in and move out. It’s also worth noting that while New York City’s homeownership rate may be particularly low, other cities also skew toward having more renters.
But there are also many experts and city leaders who see this dynamic as a problem since homeownership is one of the primary ways people build wealth in this country.
By making it difficult to buy and own a home, the situation enshrines and compounds the country’s racist history, including the effects of slavery and redlining, and allows white families to accumulate wealth disproportionately compared with Black or Latino households. Black people still face discrimination when trying to buy homes.
The fear is that, without some innovative policy intervention or public subsidies, only certain very rich people will be able to buy homes and put down roots in the city, while increasingly pushing everyone else — including city workers, teachers and more — to leave.
Here’s the inevitable pandemic question: Didn’t a lot of people leave the city when the pandemic closed in, and wouldn’t that have eased pressure on prices? How does the pandemic figure in the trends you’re seeing?
A lot of people did leave — in the beginning of the pandemic, helping drive home price spikes in places outside of the city. An analysis of home value data by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for example, showed price decreases in many parts of the city during the first year of the pandemic. But then people came back, the city rebounded and prices increased. The same thing happened in the rental market.
The city has programs to help people make down payments, and Mayor Eric Adams has made boosting “affordable ownership” and bridging racial disparities central elements of his housing agenda. Are these efforts helping people who want to own their own homes?
They are. The city says it has invested $44 million in expanding homeownership, including $9 million in down payment help. Through some of these programs, the city housing department has financed renovations for more than 125 properties that are one- to four-family homes.
The city says it has also stepped up its education campaign — many people simply aren’t aware of these programs or how to navigate getting a home loan or other complicated parts of the process.
But these programs are also relatively small, especially compared with more prominent public programs that make renting more affordable.
There’s always a trade-off when it comes to spending a limited amount of public funds, and it’s unlikely that the current slate of homeownership programs will meaningfully halt the macro forces that force working-class people to leave. And overall, there just have not been enough homes built in the city for many decades, meaning the prices get very expensive for everything that does exist.
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Accused of being an ISIS marriage broker
Several years ago, Abdullah el-Faisal cautioned a woman he was communicating with on WhatsApp that she couldn’t be too careful. “Many pple got arrested just from text messages,” Faisal, a Jamaican preacher who was an outspoken supporter of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, wrote.
Now his own text messages are the basis of the criminal case against Faisal in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Prosecutors say that he was in touch not with a would-be jihadist but with an undercover New York police officer, one of several who posed as women seeking his help to become ISIS brides.
As Faisal’s trial opened on Monday, Gary Galperin, a prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, described him as “one of the most influential English-speaking terrorists of our time.” A defense lawyer, Alex Grosshtern, said the evidence would not show that Faisal had recruited a woman to go to Syria “and assist ISIS in engaging in any specific act of terrorism.”
The case began in 2016, after the F.B.I. and the New York Police Department learned that Faisal’s stepson, Hannibal Koyaki, wanted to “make Hijrah” — a journey to join ISIS, prosecutors said. Koyaki pleaded guilty last year to lying to the F.B.I. about his desire to aid ISIS and was sentenced to two years of probation.
In 2016, prosecutors wrote in a court filing, an undercover officer got in touch with Faisal, pretending to be a woman who wanted to join ISIS and marry someone who shared her beliefs. Faisal made an introduction to his stepson, who carried on a courtship that included near-daily exchanges and three in-person meetings.
Prosecutors said that setting up marriages and helping women join ISIS was a form of material support to the group. By the time he came into contact with a second officer, who called herself Mavish, prosecutors said that Faisal had already tried to arrange matches between fighters and women from Britain, Sweden and the United States.
After I graduated from college, I lived in a great apartment in the East Village with roommates I adored. There was only one problem: Whenever I bought a banana, one of my roommates would, without fail, either eat it or throw it away.
One day, as a joke, I brought home a banana and wrote my name, Mia, on it.
A few days later, on my way out to get bagels with some friends, I grabbed the banana in case I might want to eat it with breakfast. Thanks to my labeling, it had survived until then.
When it was my turn to pay at the bagel shop, I jostled through my things in a rush to find my wallet. Then I went to the back of the store to wait with the other patrons.
After about five minutes, the man running the shop called out in a very confused tone: “We’ve got a banana here for Mia?”
I turned beet red.
“That’s mine,” I said sheepishly. “Sorry.”
“No problem!” he said cheerfully. “Good thing you labeled it!”
— Mia Marion
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Colin Moynihan and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.