row of two story houses with a box above them labelled 'vacant units'

Squandered Opportunity: The Social Cost of Underutilized Land

, ,
In our previous article describing speculation on vacant urban land, we pointed out that the attention paid to vacant housing often overlooks another type of pernicious vacancy: housing units that aren’t even built in the first place. Sometimes…

Everybody Works But The Vacant Lot: How speculators profit from our thriving cities

,
As academics, advocates, and pundits scramble to explain the rising burden of housing costs in American cities, much has been written about the specter of vacant housing. A symptom of wealthy speculators, vacant units indicate that many investors are happy to park their wealth in real estate and profit from growth in land values without the hassle of actually having to build or rent-out empty units. This narrative is often paired with calls for a tax on vacant units, which is expected to push these units into being made available for use by tenants. While there are merits to this argument, it misses the forest for the trees, as it entirely fails to identify and fix two other ways in which scarce space within our cities is wasted: through vacant and/or underutilized urban land. Just like vacant dwellings, vacant and utilized lots are held out of use by speculators when they could instead be housing many more people. 

Citadels of Privilege: How LLCs funnel land rents into the pockets of wealthy investors

, ,
As housing costs continue their inexorable climb upwards in cities across the US, concern is mounting about the role played by corporate investors. Referred to as the ‘financialization’ of housing, real estate is being hoovered-up by massive investment funds with names like BlackRock and Blackstone. With little personal connection to their tenants, these faceless investors engage in ruthless profit-seeking, deploying evictions as a weapon to raise rents as much as possible. The presence of these well-heeled investors is also driving prices upwards, pushing homeownership even further out of reach for the middle-class.

Moving the Land to Those Who Will Use It

, ,
So wrote one of the original robber barons of the early nineteenth century. Yet almost 200 years later, the idea of holding land as a road to riches is alive and well in New York City. Though, of course, owning land is not so bad when the owner also uses it productively, provides employment, or builds affordable houses. But owning ground to make money on it while doing nothing to it is a problem New York doesn’t need. In 2022, New York City is facing a new onslaught from the financial sector and their hedge fund billions. The city is enormous––700 square miles. But under the current cruel system, struggling families and small businesses have the nearly impossible task of finding a decent location to live or do business.

Vacant Land Usage and LLCs in New York City

, ,
LLCs are a way to combine the benefits of a traditional corporate structure with enhanced anonymity and reduced tax-liability, making them the ideal method for limiting risk while at the same time maximizing profits. This incentivizes land…