Long Island Index Report Reveals Enormous Gap Between the Multifamily Housing Planning and Needed on Long Island

Case Studies of Babylon, Hicksville, and Valley Stream Show That Modest Zoning Changes, Implemented Across the Region, Are Needed to Close the Gap

Garden City, NY – February 2, 2016 – The Long Island Index, a project of the Rauch Foundation, today released a report that reveals that, while Long Island is building more multifamily housing than it has in decades, an enormous gap exists between what is being produced and what the region needs to facilitate economic growth and both retain and attract younger workers. The research contained in the report – titled Long Island’s Needs for Multifamily Housing: Measuring How Much We Are Planning to Build vs. How Much We Need for Long Island’s Future – was conducted by the Regional Plan Association (RPA) and HR&A Advisors. Multifamily housing is defined as any building with three or more attached residential units and includes both rentals and owner-occupied buildings such as co-ops and condominiums.

The research shows that Long Island could gain up to 158,000 households over the next 15 years but is likely to develop only 64,000 new housing units in its most optimistic scenario, leaving a gap of up to 94,000 units. The existing shortage of affordable rental housing is keeping young adults from striking out on their own and causing many to leave Long Island. Changing preferences indicate that over two-thirds of Long Island’s 158,000 new households, or approximately 104,000 households, will prefer walkable mixed-use areas. Taking into account the 26,000 planned multifamily housing units, a gap of 72,000 units will remain in walkable mixed-use areas.

Addressing this situation is crucial to Long Island’s future. From 1990 to 2014, Long Island’s population between the ages of 18 and 34 dropped 16 percent, an exodus of young workers significantly higher than New York City’s other suburban areas. The trend is expected to continue, as 72 percent of young Long Islanders say they are likely to leave the area by 2020.

Since 1980, residential construction on Long Island has lagged behind regional competitors like Northern New Jersey and the Hudson Valley. Furthermore, projects that have recently been completed are not affordable to large segments of Long Island’s population.

The good news is that three case studies included in the report demonstrate that modest changes in zoning regulations could allow enough housing to eliminate the gap. The case studies focus on the following three communities: the Village of Babylon, the Hamlet of Hicksville, and the Village of Valley Stream.

  • Valley Stream: The village’s downtown is experiencing a surge in high-end, transit-oriented, mixed-use developments, but rents remain unaffordable for many residents. HR&A and RPA identified seven additional development sites near the Long Island Rail Road station that have potential for multifamily housing. A series of feasible zoning changes such as establishing a minimum unit size of 850 square feet, increasing maximum lot coverage to 60 percent, and increasing the maximum building height from three stories to four stories could create almost 800 new, more affordable, multifamily housing units in the downtown.
  • Hicksville: The hamlet has a number of large-scale proposed and potential development sites that would create more than 600 housing units. HR&A and RPA examined four additional sites, and with conservative zoning changes – rezoning several commercial zones as multifamily residential zones, applying 50 percent lot coverage, and establishing new minimum unit sizes – the developments could have as many as 1,900 new, more affordable, multifamily units.
  • Babylon: While there are currently no development proposals for downtown Babylon, HR&A and RPA examined seven sites with potential for multifamily housing. Minor zoning changes – such as increasing density to 20-24 units per acre, establishing a building height limit of three stories, and increasing lot coverage to 50 percent – could provide room for more than 200 new, more affordable, multifamily units.

“This report highlights an enormous need on Long Island but also points the way to the solution,” said Nancy Rauch Douzinas, President of the Rauch Foundation. “The challenge for the region is that our economic competitiveness is at stake, and yet individual communities will decide which of these various zoning changes to embrace. That necessitates a region-wide discussion to build a broad consensus around what is best for Long Island, and this report is an important step in building that discussion.”

Kevin Law, President and CEO of the Long Island Association and Co-Vice Chair of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, said, “The creation of more multifamily housing is an important step in ensuring a vibrant and dynamic Long Island economy, and thus the Long Island Association supports the efforts of the Long Island Index and the Rauch Foundation to evaluate the needs of our region and devise common sense solutions to produce more affordable housing opportunities for young professionals and families.”

For further information, contact Bob Meadows at Goodman Media: bmeadows@goodmanmedia.com.