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Coughlan: Long Island exodus is a supply and demand problem

Exterior of Alston in Ronkonkoma, NY
Alston - Ronkonkoma

In response to Joe Dowd’s opinion piece on rental housing [New rental law should be wake-up call for Long Island], I agree with his premise that we have an exodus of our population and that is not sustainable. We differ on the solution. The cause of the exodus boils down to a supply/demand problem. 

I noticed that Joe inferred that there should be some municipal restrictions be put in place to keep the rental units affordable. LIBN is very influential and consequently I’m concerned that suggestion encouraging municipal restrictions will put pressure on municipalities to place restrictions on rents or cap pricing of for sale units or foster more restrictive zoning codes. 

My primary concern is that doing this has the opposite effect of the intended outcome. In other words, putting revenue restrictions, or additional zoning restrictions, on housing creates roadblocks in the ability to create more housing, thereby reducing supply and consequently driving up prices for the end user (i.e., tenant or home buyer). 

Our affordability problem is a supply/demand problem. Our lack of supply of housing — countrywide, but particularly on Long Island — is getting to crisis proportions. We have been driving our young and seniors off Long Island (we have a declining population and a 20% reduction in our birth rate), and now we are driving our working class off Long Island as well. This leads to a cyclical decline in our standard of living. Companies go where workers are. If we have a limited supply of well-educated workers companies will continue to leave — they are certainly not coming here. 

We need to find a way to create large numbers of housing units at every level. More supply at any housing level helps the supply/demand imbalance at every level. As an example, if we miraculously had 500,000 new homes at $1 million next year, they would have to sell for less than $1 million to sell them in a reasonable time frame. Consequently, the homes priced at $900,000 would also need to be discounted, and so on down the line. When supply equals demand land values will decline as well, which will allow for even more affordable housing to be built. 

While we certainly need zoning codes to maintain our quality of life, we also need zoning codes (and an approval process) that encourage high density housing in appropriate areas. As I’m sure you know, high density housing is also the most environmentally friendly. 

I think we need everyone rowing in the same direction if we are going to maintain, and hopefully improve, the quality of life on Long Island.