That’s the gist of a report released today by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, which lists 11 ways to keep New York’s tech scene growing. The “Start-Up City” report cites sky-high housing expenses as one of five major deterrents to tech workers; the other four are talent shortage, bureaucratic inefficiency in getting startups off the ground, spotty Internet access and inferior infrastructure.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to find affordable places to live and work in New York City,” Stringer’s report states. “While the cultural diversity and nightlife of the City is unparalleled and is a significant draw to the ‘creative class,’ New York risks allowing the next generation of entrepreneurs to choose other cities like Austin, Boulder, Portland and Detroit.”
After all, 49 percent of New Yorkers are now paying “unaffordable” rents, defined as more than 30 percent of their income, according to US Census Bureau data from 2010. For almost one third of all New Yorkers, over 50 percent of their income goes to pay rent.
To create cheaper rental housing for start-up workers, Stringer suggests changing current housing codes to allow for micro-units, which have taken hold in Tokyo, Paris, Seattle and San Francisco, which we’ve heard has a pretty decent startup scene. “This micro-zoning is designed to appeal to young people who need affordable housing and are willing to accept smaller quarters and a more social, dorm-style way of life,” the report says. As we’ve previously blogged, New York is experimenting with 300-square-foot micro-apartments on a city-owned parcel on East 27th Street and 1st Avenue in Kips Bay.
Another suggestion to create more homes is to lower the parking minimums for new residential property near transit centers, “prioritizing living space over parking space.” Parking reform is already happening in downtown Brooklyn, where vehicle spots often remain empty, wasting valuable real estate, since most residents take public transportation.
This week, the Department of City Planning reduced the neighborhood’s parking minimum from four to two car spaces for every 10 units. Under the rezoning, which took effect Monday, new affordable housing units in downtown Brooklyn don’t have any parking requirements.
For techies’ home-away-from-home, the office, startups often face the toddler-clothes dilemma of rapidly outgrowing their workspace, the report states. Every time tech companies move, they must sort out insurance, desks, Internet, wiring crews and permits; this is a special struggle for medium-sized businesses that are too big for incubators, but not large enough yet for leases with corporate real estate owners.
To remedy this, Stringer proposes NYC ShareSpace, which would be a website serving as a platform for start-ups to join forces in looking for viable office space. “In addition, real estate companies could use ShareSpace to post available square footage in their buildings, opening up their business to the next generation of entrepreneurs,” the report says, also giving a nod to co-working spaces General Assembly, Projective Spaces, New Work City and WeWork Labs.
Read the full report here.