Theses Master's

Small Property Ownership in Chinatown

Yang, Ya Hsuan

This project investigates property ownership in Manhattan’s Chinatown — in particular, the project explores the questions of who owns property in Chinatown, who counts as a small property owner, and to what extent property owners, relative to other types of property owners, were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Welcome to Chinatown commissioned this research to better understand the landscape of property owners currently in the neighborhood. This is motivated by two related concerns: first, the pandemic has had significant economic consequences for both renters and property owners across New York City, and second, there is concern that the neighborhood’s independent and small property owners, as a result of the pandemic, would be motivated to sell off their properties to larger investors, which may alter the neighborhood’s character.

Using New York City’s property records data (ACRIS), the project categorized the study area’s property owners into six categories based on two variables, number of units the owner owns across New York City, and number of transactions (a purchase or a sale) the owner had been involved in since 2010. Then to measure the effects of the pandemic on each property owner category, the study uses census data to explore residential rental rate and vacancy rate changes between 2016 and 2021, and Department of Finance’s Storefront Vacancy Dataset for changes in vacancy rate between 2019 and 2021. In terms of small property owners, the study found that they tend to own smaller and older buildings and are more likely to own fewer units outside the study area.

Furthermore, within the study area, there are still many long-term small property owners but they currently only own 8% of the study area’s total units. Finally, the project also found that investors and flippers only began to show increased interest in the study area’s real estate in the 2010s. As for the pandemic’s effect on residential real estate, the project found that smaller property owners experienced higher rates of decrease in renter-occupancy between 2016-2020 relative to investors and flippers. For retail real estate, the extent to which retail vacancy was affected had more to do with how long the property owners have had their properties than with whether they were small or large.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Meisterlin, Leah M.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 19, 2023