It should come as little surprise to New Yorkers that the state’s affordability index for housing has been falling over the last decade.
The principal statistics in Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s survey told it all: for renters, median income declined 7.1 percent between 2002 and 2012, while housing costs rose 18.6 percent; for homeowners, income fell 1.6 percent while costs rose 9.9 percent. With numbers like those, it’s no wonder that the overall number of rental households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing — the generally accepted measure of affordability — jumped from 40.5 percent to 50.6 percent for renters, and from 26.4 percent to 33.9 percent for owners.
While the predicament is most severe for residents of the metropolitan New York City area, where housing costs are off the charts, it’s no picnic in the Capital Region, particularly in Schenectady County, which ranked 43rd of 62 counties in homeowner affordability, and 44th in renter affordability. The situation was only slightly better in Albany and Rensselaer counties.
The decline in median income speaks for itself, but a big part of the rise in housing costs was attributable to tax increases. Gov. Andrew Cuomo deserves credit for at least trying to corral them, but so far his arbitrary 2 percent tax cap has mostly served to squeeze valuable services, creating a new set of problems for local officials and school districts to grapple with. The Assembly’s circuit-breaker plan, which would target relief for lower-income families with high tax bills, seems preferable.
State government must figure out a way to reduce locals’ Medicaid burden, while locals need to trim costs for health insurance and pensions for existing and retired workers if there is to be real progress on property taxes. And more help from the feds for more affordable housing goes without saying.