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NYC Housing is Nearly Three Times as Crowded as National Average: Study

By Nicole Levy | October 5, 2015 4:37pm | Updated on October 6, 2015 6:23pm

Feeling a little cramped in your apartment? You're not alone.

Nearly 1.5 million New Yorkers lived in 272,533 crowded dwellings in 2013, according to a study released Monday by city comptroller Scott Stringer. 

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development defines a housing unit as "crowded" when it's occupied by more people than the number of rooms it contains.

Crowding can be viewed as a health, safety, wellbeing and financial issue for occupants, experts say. It's linked to the spread of infectious disease, mental distress, an increased number of injuries and fatalities suffered in fires, poor academic performance and behavioral problems among kids, and homelessness.

The percentage of crowded rental and owned housing units in New York City grew from 7.6 percent in 2005 to 8.8 percent in 2013, data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Communities Survey shows. Nationwide in 2013, the crowding rate stood at a mere 3.3 percent.

The greatest increase in crowding was seen in Brooklyn, followed by Queens, and then The Bronx.

From 2005 to 2013, the number of crowded studio apartments citywide swelled by about 34,000 units, an increase of 185 percent.

Of particular note, the proportion of the city's entire studio stock occupied by three or more tenants jumped to 13.5 percent in 2013 from 2.9 percent in 2005.

housing 1Credit: Office of NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer

The percentage of "severely crowded" housing units — those with 1.5 person per room — grew from 70,214 units in 2005 to 102,791 units in 2013, or from 2.3 to 3.3 percent. They were most highly concentrated in the Bronx.

housing 2
Factors you'd expect to be part of the problem, but aren't:

Income doesn't appear to be a factor in crowding, if you include both rented and owned units. In 2013, 23.6 percent of crowded households reported incomes in the city's bottom twenty-five percent, and 18.5 percent reported incomes in the top 25 percentile.

Senior citizens, young adults and college students aren't driving the overcrowded conditions in New York. The percentage of New Yorkers age 60 and older living in crowded units is less than the percentage of seniors living in all New York dwellings, and only 11.6 percent of cramped households are headed by residents under age 30. 

Factors that do contribute to crowding: 

Crowded New York City households are much more likely to include children than the average household. More than 81 percent of crowded households comprise at least one occupant under 18 years old; overall, 30.6 percent of households in the city include at least one child.

Stringer's report also suggests that tight-knit extended families headed by first-generation immigrants are more at risk of living in overcrowded apartments than other demographics in New York City. 

Twenty-four percent of crowded households have “no one in the household 14 or older who speaks English only or speaks English ‘very well,'" Stringer's study found.