Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Real Estate Is Still Surging in Harlem, a Study Finds

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Real Estate Is Still Surging in Harlem, a Study Finds

Published: February 23, 2005

he Harlem real estate renaissance rolls on - and the numbers show it.

Sales of condominiums and co-ops above West 116th Street and East 96th Street reached 5.5 percent of all sales in Manhattan last year, according to the Prudential Douglas Elliman Manhattan Market Report, compared with the 3.6 percent share it held in 2003.

By comparison, the downtown loft market was 9.4 percent of all sales in Manhattan, up from 8.1 percent the year before.

"They've both gone up," said Jonathan Miller, president of the Miller Samuel appraisal company, which prepared the Elliman report, "but the market that's gotten most of the attention, and was discovered first, was the loft market, which really came into being in the 90's. Now Harlem has become a significant segment that can't be overlooked."

It is impossible for Willie Katherine Suggs, president of the Harlem brokerage firm that bears her name, to overlook the change. "There are blocks in Harlem that bear no resemblance to what they looked like 10 years ago," Ms. Suggs said. "Right outside my door, it was like somebody bombed it out - vacant lots, vacant buildings. Now there are two nine-story luxury buildings, and they are doing a third one on the north side of 145th Street."

Seen over a 10-year period, Harlem's renewal is even more evident. The Elliman report tracked 8,653 co-op and condo sales for all of Manhattan last year, up 77.9 percent from 4,865 sales in 1995. In Harlem last year, there were 473 co-op and condo sales, a 164 percent jump from 179 sales in 1995. The report is based on closed transactions for all brokerage firms in Manhattan.

There has been, not surprisingly, a corresponding surge in prices. The average sales price for all of Manhattan in 2004 was $1,004,232, up 18.1 percent from $850,340 in 2003, and up 140.5 percent since 1995, the report said. In Harlem, the average price in 2004 was $358,657, up 36.9 percent from $261,951 in 2003, and up 333.7 percent from $82,693 in 1995.

The median price in Manhattan last year was $605,859, up 22.4 percent from $495,000 in 2003, and up 192 percent from $207,500 in 1995. In Harlem, the median price in 2004 was $305,490, rising by 32.8 percent over the median of $230,000 in 2003, and bounding up by 350 percent from $68,000 in 1995.

Ms. Suggs credits city housing policy for the boom. "You have city money involved," she said. "If you agreed to keep prices affordable, you got tax breaks and all kinds of incentives. And investors took advantage of them. Where else could you get a two-bedroom apartment for $190,000?"

Now, most of those subsidized, renovated apartments are gone, "and nonsubsidized apartments start at $450,000 and go up to over a million," Ms. Suggs continued. "It became the self-fulfilling prophecy."

Spurring the demand is the fact that Manhattan "has just gotten so expensive," said Dr. Chris Mayer, director of the Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia University. "And, certainly, the renaissance in Harlem, in Brooklyn and, frankly, across the bridges and tunnels to New Jersey, shows that close access to Midtown is worth the price."

At the same time, Harlem's character has changed in just a decade. "Large chain grocery stores are there; hotels opening up, the Body Shop, Starbucks," Dr. Mayer said. "And it has become harder for people on a limited income to live there."

"It's always an interesting question whether so-called gentrification is good or bad," he added.


Subject: Harlem real estate boom
Date: 2/23/2005 11:45:27 A.M. Eastern Standard Time

Academic Dr. Chris Mayer (NYT 2/23/05) misses or gets wrong so much of
the truth about Harlem real estate, we're guessing he's a non-resident.

Mayer suggests the Harlem boom is about "access to midtown" and
because "Manhattan has gotten so expensive." Not irrelevant. But
Harlem residents aren't midtown-centric.

We come for a low-scale, less-dense place to live. We choose to be in and
around landmark-quality architecture. We feel we're not the terrorist target
midtown is.

We like having multiple subway options.

We like our proximity to bridges and highways AWAY from midtown.

We know our neighbors.

And since as long time resident broker Willie Sugg's noted, Harlem's
gentrification has meant filling up vacant lots and vacant
shells---not pushing people out--Dr. Mayer is wrong, it's become
EASIER for people of limited income to live here. We no longer have
to pay inflated ghetto prices because there is some retail competition.

We don't have to travel to midtown to buy as many of the things we need.

We are safer than before because of new neighbors in those formerly
vacant lots and buildings. And the recent enthusiasm about the "new" Harlem
has meant we are increasingly able to get fair and equal City and State services
and support than in the past, insteading of being treated as a ghetto for the
dumping of services and people midtown doesn't want.

Harlem real estate values reflect FAVORABLE SECULAR CHANGE in the
quality of life in Harlem for people of all incomes. They're not just
about the rise in midtown prices.

Harlem for Equal and Fair Treatment (HEFT)
537 W. 142nd Street, #1
New York, NY 10031

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