One common argument I have read in various places is that the high rent of New York and other large cities is a result of globalization and inequality (English translation: rich foreigners). According to this theory, rich people have created a surge of demand so overwhelming that no amount of construction could possibly meet it.
It seems that if this argument were true, rent would be growing most rapidly in rich neighborhoods full of super-expensive skyscrapers, such as New York’s Upper East and West Sides.
This week, NYU’s Furman Center helpfully came out with its latest report on housing in New York City. Page 6 of the report reveals that between 1990 and 2014, rent in the Upper East Side rose by 23 percent- about the same as the citywide average. Upper West Side rent rose by 38 percent- more than the citywide average, but less than ten of the city’s 50-odd other neighborhood clusters, including not only hipstery Greenpoint, but also not-so-nice areas like East Harlem. So this bit of data, although not conclusive, seems inconsistent with the “rich foreigners” theory.