Housing for the rootless superrich

Where billionaires buy pieds a terre

When San Francisco looks at building ultra-luxury housing -- places like 8 Washington -- and some city officials and "experts" say it's going to help meet the housing needs of the city, we ought to look at what's happening in Manhattan. There, high-end housing is being flooded with people who don't live in Manhattan, won't live in Manhattan, and will at best hang out there a few weeks a year.

Only 10 floors have been completed in what is intended to be the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere — a slender, 84-story tower on Park Avenue at 56th Street in Manhattan. But the top penthouse is already under contract for $95 million. Other buyers have snapped up apartments on lower floors for prices that are almost as breathtaking. While their identities are not known, it is likely that many are the rootless superrich: Russian metals barons, Latin American tycoons, Arab sheiks and Asian billionaires.

Why does that matter? Other than the fact that, according to developers, "Only about a quarter of the units will be occupied at any one time," which doesn't make for street life, community or even much in the way of economic benefits? Here's the problem:

The growth in high-end projects in Manhattan comes as housing for the working and middle class is in increasingly short supply in the city. These buildings are proving so profitable that they are warping the local real-estate market, making it more difficult to put up more-affordable housing.

Developers have long complained that the prices of land, construction materials and labor are high in New York, even if they are somewhat less expensive than in London or Hong Kong.

But builders of ultraluxury apartments have much more latitude on costs because they are securing spectacular prices for their projects.

As a result, the luxury building trend is driving up the overall cost of land in the city. Several developers maintained that they could build moderately priced housing only if they could get significant tax breaks.

Sound familiar? There is, one New York architects say, "only two markets, ultraluxury and subsidized housing." San Francisco is also an international city, and prices here are even better than New York. So don't be surprised if, in a city that doesn't seem a bit concerned about how much new housing costs or who the buildings are designed for, we reach Manhattan-like levels of insanity.




"Housing for the rootless superrich"

Give Tim another five years, and he will be ranting about "rootless cosmopolitans" (безродный космополит) as well...

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on May. 21, 2013 @ 6:33 am

Aren't you one of those who constantly bleat about how we shouldn't tax the rich, because they'll just go to another country because they don't have the same national attachments that ordinary people have?

And now, when it suits your situational logic, they're not rootless anymore?

So which is it? Are the rich rootless or are they not?

Posted by Greg on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:39 am

The rich aren't rootless and certainly not homeless. They simply have more than one home, often in more than one country, and so cannot spend all year in any one place.

So what? Do you and Tim want to pass a law demanding a minimum residency requirement? How exactly would you enforce that?

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:59 am

I think the meaning here is that they don't have roots put down in any community whose well-being is important to them or even upon which they depend. The kind of interdependent community spirit that used to raise roofs in a day, and which rich people don't need to depend on to thrive individually. (Or don't think they do.)

Posted by Hortencia on May. 21, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

"So which is it? Are the rich rootless or are they not?"

Just pointing out that referring to a group people you despise as "rootless", has, shall we say, a rich set of historical allusions.

I wonder if Tim was aware of that when he dreamed up that little phrase...

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on May. 21, 2013 @ 8:20 am

So just because someone bad once used a certain word to describe someone else, that word shall forevermore be purged from the lexicon?

Posted by Greg on May. 21, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

rather than someone successful enough to have several homes.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

Homeless people have no home, and they live that way because they have to rather than want to. Rootless people have no attachment or loyalty to any particular place or country, and they live that way because they want to.

Note, by the way, that in all these discussions no one ever made a value judgement about whether it's right or wrong to be "rootless." Personally, I could care less how people choose to live. I just don't think we need to be rolling out the red carpet for them, when there are so many people with unmet housing needs who do have an attachment to this city.

Posted by Greg on May. 22, 2013 @ 11:26 am

if we build less housing for the wealthy, we will somehow miraculously build more housing for the poor.

But building homes for the poor requires something that building homes for the wealthy does not. It requires a subsidy from someone else. And who exactly is going to agree to that? As I recall, the last bond measure to build subsidized homes crashed and burned.

You also assume that if I have a home in more than one town, that I somehow cannot feel any loyalty to either of them. Why would you think that? Have you asked any of them? Do you even know anyone like that?

I have homes in two different States and I feel a loyalty to both of them.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2013 @ 11:42 am

Rootless rich people? That could be any person with a huge bank account, left wing elite or right wing elite. Trust fund kid, tech people or someone who made all their own.

Posted by Garrett on May. 21, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

You cannot keep raising the rents and foolishly thinking that there will ALWAYS be a long line of prospective renters/buyers. At some point, even the people making six figures will get tired of being screwed for a place to live. The realtors are driving prices up with all this speculation, and the greedy landlords believe them and keep going UP UP UP.

The few decent landlords are overshadowed by the greedy ones who just want to sit back and collect a check without maintaining their properties or upgrading them. The day is coming when the bubble will burst (again) and landlords will have to take whatever they can get.

Posted by JumpStreet1983 on May. 22, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.