Business of Design

In 2020, The Lowest Amount of NYC Building Permits Were Filed in Eight Years

Construction in New York City decreased for the fourth straight year in 2020, according to a new report from the Real Estate Board of New York—although activity ramped up in the last quarter with a number of sizable new projects.

The Download: According to a new study by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), construction activity declined for the fourth consecutive year in 2020, marking a 9.94 percent decline year-over-year. There were only 1,760 total new buildings this past year—the lowest amount New York City has seen since 2012 when the real estate industry began bouncing back from the 2009 financial crisis. The total square footage amounted to just 42.67 million, down 28 percent year-over-year, which was also the lowest figure in that time span. The amount of multiple dwelling units decreased 18 percent to 27,402.

Courtesy REBNY

Why It Matters: Construction metrics for the fourth quarter illustrate a more positive story: 544 new building filings in the last three months of 2020 indicate a 23 percent quarterly increase and a 34 percent rise year-over-year. Also, the total proposed construction floor area in new filings jumped 58 percent from, while the amount of multiple dwelling units rose 19 percent.

In Their Own Words: “The reality is that our city is not currently getting enough construction projects underway—and it’s not creating enough housing, including affordable housing—to address immediate and long-term needs,” said REBNY president James Whelan.

Surface Says: Time to invest in new construction and infrastructure to instigate post-pandemic recovery. A rebound is exactly what New York City needs.

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