Bill de Blasio, elected mayor of New York this week, campaigned as a soak-the-rich liberal, but Business Insider’s Josh Barro notes that there’s not much money for new government programs in city government—even if the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approve de Blasio’s proposal to raise city income taxes on those making more than $500,000 a year. Barro predicts that will instead become known as “the most pro-development mayor in decades.” And he may be more effective than outgoing Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg in getting approval for “upzonings,” which allow developers to go higher and denser (presumably in exchange for creating more affordable units):
De Blasio will have a key advantage in getting those upzonings done: by tying upzonings to inclusionary housing and the affordable housing issue, he will be able to paint NIMBY opponents of density as opponents of affordable housing. The debate won't be over whether every part of New York should be given over to luxury condo towers; it will be about whether we can grow our way into housing affordability.
If he goes this route, de Blasio may find common cause with libertarians, or specifically “urban libertarians,” who want to get rid of restrictions on the construction of new housing units. Readers of this blog may remember this point from my posts on “voting with your feet,” where I argued that NIMBYism can prevent the non-wealthy from moving to cities and states where they like public policy. De Blasio’s apparent view that increasing housing is the best way to reduce the cost of housing is a significant shift for liberalism; it certainly doesn’t bode well for rent control proponents.
Trying to get more people into New York City is also a way of competing with Texas (the “future” of America, according to a recent cover story in Time magazine), which has been growing rapidly because of relatively low housing costs. Increased housing stocks can translate to increased political clout, as population growth has led to more congressional seats and electoral votes in Sun Belt states over the past half-century. If more housing results in more people at all income levels in New York City, it would be a significant long-term victory for de Blasio and the liberal movement. Libertarians probably wouldn’t be happy with most of the legislators who would represent the new high-rises of New York (they’re not going to rescind the ban on smoking in bars), but they could claim vindication on the idea of looser restraints for developers.