Housing at the Crossroads

If you are reading LI Pulse you are obviously intelligent, dynamic, goal oriented and, hopefully, successful. As such, I am sure many of you are still wondering, “How did we get here?” in regard to the enigma that is the current housing market.

One would think that after the amount of time that has elapsed since the housing bubble burst there would be some signs of recovery. But given the jobless bounce back we have seen thus far, there has been little improvement in the housing sector. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure if there are no jobs, there’s no one to buy homes. Take a gander at any real estate listings website and see how long some of those homes have been on the market. It is not unusual to see many have been listed for years.

Historically, housing has been the tip of the development spear on Long Island. If history is any indicator, residential development is the first to be built, predominantly in a west to east fashion. It was typically followed by retail and other commercial developments close in tow. This trend was based on the availability of land, as it grew scarce to the west, building moved east. Simple.

But several issues, including land preservation efforts and concern for water quality have diminished the amount of land available for development. This has forced a rethink of the residential building model, which is moving away from the single-family homes and towards multi-family in greater densities.
Bowing out is the McMansion, which had a brief moment in the sun before its end, spurred by the discovery that the financing that held those homes up (as much as the wood and nails) was faulty.

In the midst of the housing market’s hibernation, events are taking place that will see a housing market emerge much different than the bloated one that went to sleep.

Most obvious are efforts to update zoning across Long Island to target development that will better suit current and future housing demand. It is based on the development of denser, multi-family proposals targeted towards central business districts (CBD) and hubs of transportation. On paper, this proposal appears sound, but the reality is, at the moment, there’s a limited number of CBDs that have the potential to be repositioned as new suburban downtowns due mostly to infrastructure limitations.

Much of the effort to revise zoning standards is based on the argument that it will make housing on Long Island more affordable. New zoning standards are counting on the premise that destinations can be manufactured to retain the Island’s twenty- and thirty-somethings. Countless studies have reported this demographic is leaving Long Island for greener, less expensive and cooler pastures.

There is no shortage of ideas about stemming the tide of Long Island ex-pats, from density to walkability. Most seem to address the affordability of housing, but give little credence to other issues, such as congestion and other costs that contribute heavily to living here, like utilities and insurance. One has to wonder whether anything considered so far will have the magic to turn the tide.

So I ask you, the readers, what are your priorities in terms of housing on Long Island? Would you like to see more apartments? More open space? More green development? Revitalization of downtowns? How green should we go? Or should we simply wait until the economy recovers before implementing change?

Let me know how you feel at conor@nulllipulse.com and in the next column or so I will post your suggestions.

conor bly

Conor Bly has been writing about Long Island for the past 14 years covering, well, pretty much everything, from automobiles to zoning regulations. When not writing, much of his time is occupied by looking for that elusive perfect house.