REBNY Report: NYC Construction in 2020 Lowest in Nearly a Decade Shutdowns, Economic Uncertainty to Blame

Patch.com reports that a recent study by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) concluded that 2020 was a slow year for construction in the city—hitting the lowest point since 2012, according to the report. 

With shutdowns and economic uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus pandemic throughout most of last year and beyond, the conclusions may not come as much of a surprise to most in the industry. But their ramifications might be felt across sectors and for years after the city’s eventual return to some form of normalcy. 

“The reality is that our city is not currently getting enough construction projects underway,” says REBNY president James Whelan, “and it is not creating enough housing - including affordable housing - to address immediate and long-term needs.” 

The study looked at construction filings across the city in 2020, finding significant declines in square footage for both new building filings and major construction projects from the prior year. New building construction fell 28%, and major construction dropped a whopping 35% year over year. The number of proposed residential units also declined significantly from 2019, falling 17% to 27,402, according to Patch.com.

In a press release, REBNY urged Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Chuck Schumer, and President Joe Biden to invest in infrastructure plans, notes Patch.com. Cuomo’s recent proposal of a $306 billion infrastructure plan for New York State, along with calling for converting unused commercial space into residential use, suggests that the electeds are focused on real estate’s role in the city’s and state’s recovery.

“It’s welcome news to the industry that Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, and President Biden are committed to investing in middle-class careers with benefits through large-scale, pivotal infrastructure projects,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) of Greater New York, in a statement, “and we look forward to a year where construction leads the way forward in pioneering New York’s way out of the economic crisis, just as it always has during previous crises.”

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