Side Note

Rich people can’t stop buying luxury apartments and not using them

There is a building in Midtown Manhattan that I have not-so-affectionately dubbed the “expensive LEGO tower,” because from afar, it looks like it’s made up of hundreds of tiny boxes stacked on top of each other. Its actual name is 432 Park, and it is full of multimillion-dollar apartments, many of which are completely empty.

Buildings like 432 Park aren’t an anomaly: The number of vacant apartments in New York City is at an all-time high of 74,945, or 2.1 percent of the city’s housing stock, Brick Underground reported this week, based on data from the Regional Plan Association (RPA) and a recent city census. According to the report, some wealthy people are using these luxury apartments as a tax haven; others are using them as a pied-à-terre, which is what millionaires like to call their vacation homes. In gentrifying neighborhoods with slightly more affordable housing — including the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and Crown Heights — vacant apartments are often used as Airbnbs, which makes housing less affordable overall.

NYC’s rate of vacant apartments has reached an all-time high.

But while rich people are buying up apartments and leaving them (mostly) empty, others are having a hard time finding a place to live. The city’s dearth of affordable housing has led to an increase in the number of homeless people, particularly working families with children, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. As a RPA community planning director Moses Gates told Brick Underground, there are so many vacant apartments in the city that even if you gave one to each of the 63,101 homeless people who slept in city shelters this January, you’d still have nearly 12,000 apartments to spare.