Matrix Blog

Affordability, Affordable Housing

[Three Cents Worth #278 NY] Murray Hill Has the Most Micro Units in All of Manhattan

February 26, 2015 | 8:00 pm | curbed | Charts |

It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed NY, at the intersection of neighborhood and real estate in the capital of the world…and I’m here to take measurements.

Check out my 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

Uptown may have the smallest studios, but which Manhattan neighborhood can claim the most micro units? To find out, I looked at where apartments measuring 300 square feet or less are located and determined what they have in common—besides being small. We’ve appraised many micro apartments over the years, so I was admittedly a little confused at how micro apartments were some sort of new concept…



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My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Three Cents Worth: Murray Hill Has the Most Micro Units in All of Manhattan [Curbed]

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[Three Cents Worth #277 NY] Which Manhattan Neighborhood Has The Smallest Studios?

February 24, 2015 | 8:00 pm | curbed | Charts |

It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed NY, at the intersection of neighborhood and real estate in the capital of the world…and I’m here to take measurements.

Check out my 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

Although I’m often a bit macro in this column, it’s Micro Week at Curbed. So I thought I would rank Manhattan neighborhoods by the average square footage of their studio apartments based on all the closed sales of 2014. The results are in: if you want a plethora of small apartments, look uptown. On both the East and West Sides above 96th Street, from Morningside Heights and the Upper East Side to Harlem and Inwood, the average studio clocks in at under 500 square feet. By contrast, downtown, in areas like Soho, Tribeca, Battery Park City, and the Financial District, studios are larger…



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My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Three Cents Worth: Which Manhattan Neighborhood Has The Smallest Studios? [Curbed]

Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
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Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Hamptons

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Flipping Out About East Brooklyn’s Gentrification

January 28, 2015 | 9:59 pm | nymaglogo | Charts |

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This infographic was part of an epic must-read Andrew Rice piece for New York Magazine called: The Red Hot Rubble of East New York which explores the gentrification frontier where investors and New York City’s efforts to create affordable housing are running headlong into each other.

As much as 10% of the property sales are flips and prices are up 150% over the past 2 years.

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[Three Cents Worth #271 NY] How New York’s Average Sales Price Broke the $1 Million Mark

November 4, 2014 | 4:00 pm | curbed | Columns |

It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed NY, at the intersection of neighborhood and real estate in the capital of the world…and I’m here to take measurements.

Check out my 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

Although it has been a little more than a month since the third quarter ended, I thought I’d show that the average sales price of the five boroughs in aggregate broke the $1 million threshold for the first time, to a record $1,040,516…

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My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: How New York’s Average Sales Price Broke the $1 Million Mark [Curbed]

Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
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Bloomberg View Column: Credit Crunch Lives on in Housing

October 22, 2014 | 5:05 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Charts |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Credit Crunch Lives on in Housing. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

Don’t be fooled by low mortgages rates, which once again are below 4 percent: Credit for buying a home or refinancing an existing mortgage has almost never been tougher to get.

[read more]


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Bloomberg View Column: Rent Control’s Winners and Losers

October 21, 2014 | 3:31 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Charts |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Rent Control’s Winners and Losers. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

Any renter in New York City has probably has felt the pain of coming up with the monthly payment. There are plenty of reasons for the city’s steep rents…

..So what would happen if rent control and its cousin, rent stabilization, disappeared overnight?

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Bloomberg View Column: Housing’s New Wealth Effect

September 27, 2014 | 1:00 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Charts |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Housing’s New Wealth Effect. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

It was a busy week for housing market reports. The U.S. Census published its new home-sales results for August, showing an 18 percent gain from the prior month and a 33 percent increase from August 2013. News headlines relied on words such as “surged” and “soared” to describe the results.

Only a few days earlier, the National Association of Realtors released its existing home-sales report for August, which showed month-over-month sales falling for the first time in four months. The inventory of unsold properties was 4.5 percent higher than a year earlier. I recently addressed the market slowdown in “Understanding Housing’s Dog Days.”

[read more]


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[Three Cents Worth #268 NY] Units In New Developments Grow Larger

August 31, 2014 | 3:57 pm | curbed | Columns |

It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed NY, at the intersection of neighborhood and real estate in the capital of the world…and I’m here to take measurements.

Check out my 3CW column that I posted a few weeks ago on @CurbedNY:

For this chart, I looked at a little more than a decade of Manhattan closed sales by square footage, breaking out the market by new development sales and re-sales. During this period, the average square footage of a new development sale was 1,382—15.6 percent larger than the 1,195 average square footage of a re-sale. However, new development sales size showed significant volatility as developers adapted to the changing market. The underlying driver of volatility is the quest to achieve the highest price per square foot premium a developer realizes by creating larger contiguous space. As a result, the much chronicled “micro-unit” phenomenon falls short and can’t become mainstream under current market conditions without external incentives (i.e. government). The math doesn’t work…



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My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Units In New Developments Grow Larger [Curbed]

Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Hamptons

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Terrific Chart on Homeownership by Age

June 23, 2014 | 11:03 am | wsjlogo |

wsjstudentdebttrend
[Source: WSJ]

I really like the way this chart illustrates the 20 year decline in the homeownership rate. A few thoughts on what it shows:

Under 35 – Lowest in 20 years – record student debt and tepid economy plays a significant role in falling rate.

35-44 – most volatile, has overcorrected – large gain during credit boom and fell well below 1994 levels.

45-54 – fell below 1994 levels but didn’t rise as much during credit housing boom.

55-60 – higher than 45-54 group but followed a similar arc – fell below 1994 levels but didn’t rise as much during credit housing boom.

65 and above – only category to finish higher than 1994 levels – not heavily influenced by credit bubble.

Overall – is currently higher than 1994 levels. Coming down from artificial credit bubble high – probably won’t stop declining until credit begins to normalize.

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Housing is a Drag: US Student Debt Bubble Made Worse by the Baby Boomer Nanny State

June 16, 2014 | 1:55 pm | fedny |

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[click to open report]

I like to say that we never had a housing bubble in the US. It was a credit bubble with a housing as a symptom. The same credit bubble logic applies to college costs which have run unchecked well past the housing bubble “pop” in 2006 and the great recession.  Lately there has been discussion on the student debt crisis by economists and financial journalists that the phenomenon is overhyped – which prompted this post as a college tuition paying parent.

College costs for a 4 year degree are growing at a rate of about 5%, well above inflation. Access to credit has remained easy for students and parents to obtain so there are no real checks and balances (no pun intended) on college costs. Demand is high as students and their parents often fight to gain admission and can worry about paying off the debt later.

It’s been widely discussed that anemic household formation is holding back the housing market and the economy from fully recovering, that student debt has been the key culprit in holding back young people from striking out on their own, resigned to live at home until their finances get better. Speaking as a parent who just finished sending a son through college with more on the way, it’s a hard reality for parents too.

I was standing on the platform the other day waiting for a delayed commuter train (hey, it’s Metro North, who else) and struck up a conversation with a woman who was lamenting about all the debt she and her husband incurred sending their 4 kids to Ivy League schools – only for them to be unable to find a job in their chosen profession or find one that pays a living wage – these factors are often mutually exclusive.

Parents that borrow heavily to finance their children’s education is the sort of thing that is missed in economic data because that debt is in some other form of a home equity loan or other debt.

“Parents are facing an economic crisis because they are borrowing too much for college,” says Rick Darvis, executive director of the National Institute of Certified College Planners. “They’re sacrificing their current lifestyle and robbing their future retirement.” The rising levels of parental debt could ripple through the rest of the economy. By the time parents are in their 50s and 60s, they should be saving for retirement instead of taking on new liabilities, says Joseph S. Messinger, a certified college planner and president of Capstone Wealth Partners in Columbus, Ohio.

We are seeing financial coping strategies emerge like going to a community college for 2 years to save money and transferring to a better school for the remainder – or questioning the value of college all together. The cost/benefit of a college degree is being called into question because of the combination of spiraling costs and tepid job opportunities for many in the current economy.

The baby boomers have taken on significant debt to finance their children’s education. Sure the average student debt is $25k to $29K, the cost of a new or used car, but I contend a large portion of college debt is in the shadows born by the parents.

helicopter house

The average cost for a 4-year degree is about $23K (blended cost of private and public) which suggests that the debt would only cover about 80% of the cost of first year. This would imply that more than 3/4 of the cost of a 4-year degree was paid in cash through savings and working during the four year period. That doesn’t seem plausible to me – actually it seems ludicrous. Parents have to be paying  cash or taking on an inordinate amount of debt to pay for the other 75% of the cost that doesn’t show up in the school related debt numbers.  How common is it to see parents in our helicopter nanny state shoulder little to no financial burden for their children’s college educations? No matter the demographics, I contend it’s quite rare.

And how does this impact the US housing market recovery?

  • Household formation is weak as young adults with high debt, limited job opportunities or both, live with their parents after graduating – for extended periods of time, delaying their entrance into the housing market.
  • Parent’s are burdened by taking on debt for children’s college education, can’t trade up, make a lateral move, or downsize because they can’t qualify for a mortgage to buy a house (and keeps inventory off the market as well, making prices rise).

The tepid economy has exposed the problem – and the heavy debt loads could provide a drag on housing for an extended period of time.

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