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Monthly Archive for June, 2012

Board Sets New Guidelines for Rent Stabilized Apartments

The Rent Guidelines Board approved rent increases for New York City’s 1 million rent stabilized apartments of 2 percent for one year leases and 4 percent for two-year leases. Although tenants wanted a rent freeze because of the economic downturn, landlords argued that the increase won’t cover the increased real estate taxes and water bills they are forced to pay. Small property owners will be especially hurt by the modest rent increase.

A recent report found that during the economic downturn, the median rent in New York City increased to $1,100 a month in 2011 from $950 a month in 2008. The percentage of New Yorkers spending more than half of their income on rent rose to 29 percent in 2011 from 26 percent in 2008. The president of the Rent Stabilization Association put the situation in perspective, however, saying landlords need cash to cover operations and repairs, otherwise rental units will deteriorate.

The National Association of Realtors announced that total existing home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, declined 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million in May from 4.62 million in April, but are 9.6 percent above the 4.15 million-unit pace in May 2011. The slight month-over-month decline was attributed to supply constraints rather than softening demand.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other elected officials cut the ribbon to officially open the Via Verde affordable housing development in the South Bronx. The largely City-financed project features 151 rental units and 71 co-op units and innovative and sustainable green design elements. The project was the winning proposal in New York City’s first juried design competition for affordable and sustainable housing, and is the latest development to be completed in the Administration’s efforts to rebuild the blighted South Bronx.

The board of Brooklyn Bridge Park has selected Toll Brothers City Living and Starwood Capital Group to develop a 550,000 square foot complex next to Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Brooklyn’s waterfront. The project will include a 200-room luxury hotel and 159 residential units as well as a restaurant, banquet and meeting space, retail shops, and a spa and fitness center.

Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities, Inc. and Related Companies, has announced development plans for the Willets Point section of Queens. Initially the developers will acquire 23 acres east of Citi Field to begin the build-out of Phase 1 and will create a retail and entertainment attraction to the west of Citi Field. The build-out will include retail, hotel, and commercial uses to complement a residential community of 2,500 housing units, of which 875 units will be affordable. The project will infuse $3 billion of private investment into the local economy and create 7,100 permanent jobs and 12,000 direct construction jobs.

NYC Multifamily Transactions Jump 29 Percent In April

Multifamily Month In Review

April 2012 multifamily sales saw 44 transactions comprised of 64 buildings totaling $376.832 million in gross consideration, compared to April 2011, which saw 34 transactions comprised of 61 buildings totaling $462.291 million in gross consideration.

“The decline in dollar volume reflects less activity on the institutional end and more activity by private investors,” said Shimon Shkury, president of Ariel Property Advisors. “We believe the fact that more small to mid-size transactions are occurring underlies a more sustainable upward trend.”

Figures from April 2012 represent a 12 percent decrease in transaction volume and a 4 percent decrease in dollar volume, but also a 3 percent increase in building sales volume compared to March 2012, which saw 50 transactions comprised of 62 buildings totaling $392.365 million in gross consideration.

“Activity is clearly trending up as this is the third month in a row with at least 44 transactions taking place and it is the fifth month in a row where dollar volume exceeded $375 million,” Mr. Shkury said. “Since 2009, multifamily sales have been bumpy with months that were either very active or more lackluster. We are now witnessing a consistent level of building sales indicative of a healthy market, and the strong recent activity leads us to believe that these metrics are poised to go higher over the new few months.”

Below are key highlights from the Multifamily Month in Review: NYC:

Manhattan (below 96th Street) led April in dollar volume with $139.405 million in gross sales taking place over nine transactions comprised of 13 buildings. Compared to March 2012, transaction volume and building volume are marginally down and dollar volume declined by 34 percent, primarily due to a lack of large institutional sales.

Northern Manhattan multifamily sales activity bounced back in April after a relatively light March as nine transactions took place comprised of 14 buildings totaling $60.475 million in gross consideration. The area has seen a flurry of portfolio sales activity since the beginning of the year and this continued in April with four such transactions.

The Bronx saw 11 transactions comprised of 13 buildings totaling $40.915 million in gross consideration. Transaction and building volume roughly matched March 2012 levels, but dollar volume dipped 31percent. We continue to see prices shift up throughout the borough.

Brooklyn had another very active month, leading the submarkets covered in this report in terms of building volume and coming in a close second in terms of dollar volume. For the month, there were 11 transactions comprised of 20 buildings totaling $112.911 million in gross consideration. A large portion of this came from the sale of a two multifamily portfolios by Urban American that sold for just over $60 million.

Queens saw four transactions comprised of four buildings totaling $23.125 million in gross consideration. Considering the small sample size, this is roughly on pace with March 2012 figures. The borough also continues to outperform monthly figures seen throughout 2011.

Please refer to our Comp-Trak application for a full list of transactions across the five boroughs.

Our Observations For the Week

The Commerce Department reported that foreigners invested $28.7 billion in the U.S. between January and March, the 12th consecutive quarter of positive foreign investment. Money is flowing into long-term investments such as corporate acquisitions and real estate rather than U.S. securities. Foreign investment in the U.S. totaled $234 billion in 2011, up 14 percent from $205.8 billion in 2010, with about two-thirds of the capital coming from Europe.

Brooklyn’s Two Trees Management has reportedly offered to buy the 12-acre Domino Sugar Factory site in Williamsburg for $160 million. Development partners the Community Preservation Corp. and the Katan Group have been skirmishing in court over the stalled project that calls for a four-acre waterfront park and 2,200 housing units, of which 600 units would be affordable.

The NYC Economic Development Corp. has issued requests for expressions of interest for a 13,500-square-foot site at 2040 Frederick Douglas Boulevard that is currently used as a BP gas station. The city agency estimates that the property located on the northwest corner of Central Park in Harlem could bring 85,000 square feet of residential, community, and retail space.

The NYC Economic Development Corp. also has issued an RFP to develop a 200,000-square-foot rooftop farm on a building in the Hunts Point section of The Bronx that houses two food distributors, Sultana and Citarella. The year-round farm is expected to complement neighboring food distribution businesses. In Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Bright Farms is expected to open a 100,000-square-foot rooftop farm in 2013.

In another part of the Hunts Point section of The Bronx, the city will soon request proposals to redevelop the shuttered Spofford Juvenile Detention Center. The Bloomberg administration said the local community will provide input in the process. Some local leaders are interested in redeveloping the site for housing, healthcare, or a food market.

The NY Times profiled the Hub, also known as the Times Square of The Bronx, a commercial crossroads where 149th Street, Melrose, Willis, and Third Avenues meet. Although the commercial area was the victim of burning buildings and high crime in the 1970s, the Hub Third Avenue BID is working with local officials to clean up the area. Housing surrounding the Hub is primarily rent stabilized, but city-sponsored subsidized housing is being developed. Among the projects is Via Verde, a “green” residential development.

Manhattan Vacancy Rate .89 Percent: Rents Rise for 7th Consecutive Month

Speaking before Congress, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said “moderate” economic growth is expected in the U.S. but risks to the recovery include uncertainty over U.S. fiscal policy and the ongoing financial crisis in Europe, which is hurting exports, diminishing consumer confidence, and putting pressure on financial markets. These factors combined with the high unemployment rate, will result in an accommodative monetary policy that may include short-term interest rates near zero through the end of 2014.

Because of unusually strong job growth in New York City, few new apartments, and a smaller pool of apartment buyers, the Manhattan vacancy rate fell to an average .89 percent in May, according to CitiHabitats. The shortage is causing many renters to engage in bidding wars for apartments as a result. Average monthly rents in Manhattan in May rose for the seventh consecutive month to $3,438, up around 3 percent from May 2011. More than 10,000 jobs were added in the city in April.

Government investment in the housing market to stall foreclosures has prevented a panic that would have resulted in a downward spiral in U.S. housing prices, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said during a Crain’s breakfast event. He also said the methods New York City used to help the housing market in the South Bronx recover might work in other depressed areas of the country.

Joseph Wood, a Syracuse University architecture student, won the$5,000 first place prize in a competition to redesign the East River Esplanade from 60th Street to 125th Street. His design features a skein of inland canals running under an extended Esplanade. The contest, sponsored by an East Side citizen’s action group called CIVITAS, asked planners to re-imagine the narrow path that’s wedged between the FDR Drive and East River, between the Queensboro and Triborough Bridges. Eight of the 90 designs that were submitted from 25 countries will be on display at the Museum of the City of New York through October.

The NYC Planning Commission voted 12-1 to approve NYU’s modified 20-year expansion plan, which will create four new buildings on two large blocks bordered by LaGuardia Place and Mercer Street, West Houston and West 3rd streets. The modified plan removed the proposed planned hotel, commercial space from loft blocks, and planned temporary gym, and reduced the heights of two of the four planned buildings. The plan will next be reviewed by City Council, which has 60 days to hold public hearings and vote.

Nearly a dozen businesses between 235th and West 238th Streets on Riverdale Avenue in the Riverdale section of The Bronx closed during the recent recession, but today the commercial corridor is on the mend. Yo-Burger, Oregano Bar & Bistro, and Tin Marin tapas restaurant and bar are among the latest culinary additions—opening in just the past few weeks. The newly created South Riverdale Avenue Merchants Association has been instrumental in filling the empty storefronts.

U.S. Economy Creates 69,000 Jobs in May – Unemployment Rate Remains 8.2 Percent

The U.S. economy created 69,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate remained 8.2 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Jobs were created in health care, transportation and warehousing, and wholesale trade, but declined in construction. Employment growth was flat in other sectors. In April, 77,000 new jobs were created while 226,000 new jobs were created in the first quarter of the year.

Job creation in New York State and New York City has been brisk and employment in the city has climbed above its pre-recession peak, William C. Dudley, president and CEO of the New York Fed, said in his Quarterly Regional Economic Press Briefing. He noted, however, that “job polarization” exists throughout the Second Federal Reserve District, which means highly skilled and technologically advanced jobs and low wage/low skilled jobs are being added, but jobs for middle-skilled workers are shrinking.

The New York City retail vacancy rate remained 2.0 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Net absorption was 19,393 square feet. The U.S. national retail vacancy rate remained at 6.9 percent in the first quarter, with net absorption a positive 9.53 million square feet.

Climbing apartment rents in Brooklyn — 10 percent in 2010, 7 percent in 2011, and an estimated 5 to 10 percent in the next 12 to 18 months—and the continued difficulty obtaining mortgages have led investors to pay Manhattan level prices for multifamily properties. An example is American Realty Advisors $55.5 million purchase of 111 Kent Avenue, which translates to more than $895,000 per apartment. Many condominium projects that stalled in Williamsburg following the financial crisis are being repositioned as rentals or sold to investors who are handling the rental conversions.

A group of merchants under the leadership of the nonprofit Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corp. (WHEDco) have formed the Southern Boulevard Merchant Association to improve the retail mix on a seven-block commercial corridor from East 174th Street to Westchester Avenue in the Crotona Park East section of The Bronx. WHEDco conducted a survey to identify the retail needs of the community and business owners have responded. In less than four years the commercial vacancy rate has fallen from 24 percent to 16 percent.

Applebee’s will be opening a new restaurant in a lot on East 117th Street adjacent to East River Plaza in East Harlem this fall. The Upper Manhattan location is the chain’s fourth in Manhattan. New York City based Applebee’s gross double what other restaurants in the chain gross, with the Times Square location the largest-grossing site.