When you start to consider just how much money exists in America, it makes the fact that we even have homelessness seems all the more absurd.
Depending on where you live across the country, you may have different ideas about how prolific the homeless situation is in this country. That’s why stats can help make the realities a bit more clear.
So the question is: how bad is homelessness in America, really?
How bad can it be?
Let’s start with the definition: an individual may be considered homeless when they lack permanent housing and have to stay in shelters, abandoned buildings or vehicles, on the streets, or in other forms of unstable situations. They may also be considered homeless if they have to “double up” with friends or extended family members because they are unable to maintain their own housing situation.
We’ve seen this issue arise in some form since the 1870s and it’s continued to pervade our society into the present day. On a single night in January 2015, for example, 564,708 people were considered homelessness in America, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. That’s over half a million people without a roof over their heads.
Although the national rate of homelessness has gone down from 21.5 per 10,000 people in 2007 to 17.7 per 10,000 in 2015, there is still a lot of work to be done––the rate of homelessness amongst individual states continues to be high and the amount of affordable housing remains painfully low.
So what can we do?
As a volunteer EMT, I’ve seen my share of what can happen on the streets. Many homeless die when it’s too hot, too cold, or too wet. These are real people who need real resources, like shelter, food, and clothes. We have to do more as a nation to stop treating the homeless as invisible, and start treating them as human beings. We must do more, as fellow neighbors, developers, lawmakers, citizens, to solve this problem and get people off the streets, because everyone, everyone, deserves a home.
But have we already built a system against homeless by design?
Have you ever wondered why some public benches have that third armrest in the middle? Or why some are just not that comfortable? I never used to give it a second thought. I reasoned it was just the cheapest design available.
This kind of design practice is subtle but everywhere in our cities and even has an actual term: hostile or defensive urban architecture. It’s used to discreetly target loitering and reduce the visibility of those deemed “unappealing” to the aesthetics of the city: the “reckless” teenagers, the poor, the homeless.
Other measures include camping restrictions and even banning private food donations to the homeless. In 2012, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg outlawed food donations because “the city couldn’t assess salt, fat, and fiber content” of the food. Apparently, it was more important to monitor the healthiness of what his people were eating, even if they were eating nothing at all.
A solution for $46 a year
For a more explicit solution, I think we should look towards Housing First, “a proven approach in which people experiencing homelessness are offered permanent housing with few to no treatment preconditions, behavioral contingencies, or barriers.” The project believes that the issues that cause a person to be homeless–unemployment, poverty, mental health, etc.–can be better addressed once they actually have a home.
And the best part is, the program’s proving to be working. Using this approach, homelessness could be eliminated at an annual additional cost of $1.7 billion. If this sounds like a lot––it’s not. It’s about $46 a year per person. Or put even more in scale: 88 cents per week.
Either way, we must continue to take steps towards eradicating homelessness in our country and ensuring that everyone has the basic necessity of shelter. I’d be willing to pay 88 cents more per week for that. Wouldn’t you?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction.” The design of green buildings is created to reduce the overall impact on the natural environment and on human health. Just in the United States alone buildings account for 40 percent of total energy use, 12 percent of the total water consumption, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, and 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions (epa.gov). We have the potential of reducing energy consumption by up to 60 percent if we use energy efficient technologies. Even implementing a small change can make a difference.
The Atelier is currently home to the tallest residential solar installation in the country. In a desire to reduce operating costs and benefit the environment, hundreds of solar panels have been installed on the roof and side of the Atelier. According to Daniel Neiditch, President of the Atelier, just a year and a half after the panels were installed, they made their initial investment back. As of early 2015, the Atelier has seen about $120,000 in savings per year and has reduced energy consumption by about 15 percent. People think that the cost of installing the panels is too high but through energy savings you make your money back fast. Moreover, you are eligible for a tax rebate and will have positive environmental impacts. The Atelier is also going green through a newly implemented sustainability initiative. In addition to the solar panels, “other energy improvements include delamping, lighting upgrades, occupancy sensors, supply procurement and demand response” (mcenergyinc.com). Daniel Neiditch hopes that once people learn about the impact that the solar panels are having on the Atelier and how beneficial the panels and going green is for the health of the environment and humans that more people will install them and have their buildings go green. Below are some of the many perks of going green.
Reducing trash, pollution and degradation of the environment
Protect biodiversity and ecosystems
Conserve natural resources
Efficiently using water, energy and other resources
Improve air and water quality, which directly benefits your health as well
Reduce waste streams
It may cost you more to get started but over time the savings add up- it’s an investment
Save on energy costs
Reduce operating costs
Impact on the economy
Create market for green product and services
Protecting occupant health and comfort
Helping the environment helps you and will improve your overall quality of life
What I love about the real estate business is that each new property presents unique challenges to learn and grow. This is especially true in New York, where every building has its own way to inspire.
Sometimes it’s just marveling at a beautiful piece of architecture. Other times, it’s digging up the history and understanding how the builders overcame the special challenges within the building. Often it’s pragmatic — figuring out how to creatively modernize a new condominium. No matter what the situation, there’s always an opportunity to learn.
Self-education is the one habit you need to cultivate, because it drives your productivity, pushes you to new heights and lights a fire underneath your feet as you carve your own path. That commitment to continuous learning leads you to everything else.
Here are five tangible ways self-education gives you the golden ticket to success as an entrepreneur:
1. It saves you time and money.
Twenty-four hours is never enough for an entrepreneur. A commitment to self-education could potentially save you weeks of time — and your bank account.
For the entrepreneur building the next billion-dollar app, this means gaining a basic knowledge of coding and user interface design beforestarting a project. While it may take a little time and investment up front, it will ultimately save hours and thousands of dollars because you have a basic understanding of these worlds.
The smart entrepreneur understands that his or her investment in education will reward them with both short-term and long-term benefits.
2. It builds confidence.
Being an entrepreneur is one of the most challenging jobs, especially if you want to stand out in New York. There are constant hurdles, and you’re never short of opportunities to throw in the towel. On top of that, it’s easy to fall victim to your own doubts.
Learning a new skill and using it to push through a challenge can give entrepreneurs a massive boost in confidence. It’s been shown that there is a strong link between education and confidence. It gives you the motivation you need to push through the humps that come with being an entrepreneur.
3. It opens new opportunities.
One of the projects that challenged, but inspired, me the most was installing solar panels on the Atelier Condos. It forced me to learn everything I could about solar and renewable energy. On top of that, I got involved on the design side as we went through revisions trying to perfect and refine the use of the panels to add an efficient, yet modern element to the building.
By undertaking that project and learning about the future of solar, it opened so many new doors for me personally and professionally. And though the idea-to-implementation period was longer than I would’ve liked, it is by far one of the most rewarding projects I’ve tackled. In fact, I’m planning to install solar panels in other River 2 River properties.
I’m now able to talk fluently about solar technology and renewables, which has afforded me the opportunity to speak and write about sustainability and the non-profit space.
As an entrepreneur, you simply cannot predict what new business and personal opportunities you could unleash by learning something outside your comfort zone. Through it all, Atelier stands as a beautiful step forward for integrating alternative energy and modern aesthetics in New York City.
4. You’ll be sharper and happier.
I love real estate, particularly New York real estate, because it changes so fast. I have to stay abreast of current events, market shifts, etc., because the environment, neighborhoods and tastes of my clients evolve constantly. If I stop learning or if I stop reading, my business will suffer because there are people out there waiting to “eat my lunch.” I’m telling you, NYC real estate is not for the faint of heart.
Investing in your self-education keeps your skills, your brain and your outlook sharp so you have the ability to adapt. And the bonus is that constant learning also makes you a happier human being. Even amoebas get bored and unhappy when they keep getting hit with the same stimuli over and over again.
There is something to the old saying that “variety is the spice of life.” Entrepreneurship can be a grind. It’s easy to lose yourself in the constant responsibility and busywork. That’s when you start to get complacent. You develop blind spots and become vulnerable to your competition.
That’s why self-education is so important. Discovering new ideas that are unrelated to your business can release your creativity and give you perspective on your business that you would otherwise miss. Trust me, this can be the difference between life and death for your passion project.
A question I hear a lot when I’m talking about homelessness in New York, is: “why don’t the homeless just stay in shelters?” It is more complex than many New Yorkers imagine–both the problems and the purported solutions. For me, the more important question is: ‘why shelters at all?’
As someone who has spent a lot of time with the homeless–as a volunteer EMT and as someone who lived on the streets for 3 nights–I know firsthand how we have failed our homeless population. Providing shelters, both private and public, may seem like a solution for those who aren’t homeless, but for those who are, there are systemic problems. I agree with them, and here’s why:
In 2015, incidents officially labeled as “violent” included 153 assaults, 65 cases of child abuse, 174 domestic violence incidents, and 90 allegations of sexual assault involving residents.
It’s no better in “cluster” shelters (private apartments and hotels converted to house the homeless) either. Though cluster shelters may have fewer incidences of violence, they’re often rat-infested, poorly managed (if managed at all), and lacking in basic accommodations like clean water. Because these shelters are privately-owned and exempt from fines, the incentive to address safety and health violations are lost on the owners and the city. Cluster landlords are not contractually bound to follow DHS’ lead. So, the residents have no recourse.
The conditions are so bad that Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned the Department of Investigation (DOI) to investigate. The DOI spent four months inspecting 25 homeless shelters across the city, interviewed occupants and landlords, and evaluated the sites based on cleanliness, management, and integrity.
In the five clusters investigated across multiple boroughs including Queens and Brooklyn, the DOI found a total of 223 violations from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), Department of Buildings (DOB), and Department of Housing Preservation and Development since 2012. Hotel cluster shelter facilities didn’t fare any better with 168 violations.
According to the DOI findings, “At its worst, DHS is turning a blind eye to violations that threaten the lives of shelter residents.”
According to de Blasio, alleviating the homeless problem is a marathon, not a sprint. Patience is the key, “We will make progress, but it will be incremental. It will be slow,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to the people of New York City that we have an end in sight.”
But is the end really in sight? Maybe not the way we’ve been doing it. I suspect that the path to housing the homeless is the one less traveled: get them off the street by giving them a means to support themselves.
Subsidized housing–Provide the homeless a pathway to sheltering themselves
Job training — Training, whether in a trade or resume-building, to provide a pathway for them to support themselves
In my experience, people who are homeless aren’t living on the streets because they chose to do so. Usually, they hit some bad times and ended up there. In fact, New Yorkers are roughly one paycheck away from being homeless because of loss of a job or some sort of injury. They want to work, they want housing, and they want to support themselves in order to get it. We should give them the means to do that. With the money we’re about to pour into building more shelters — something that has been proven not to work — there is an opportunity to enact a system that may work. And 2017 is as good a year as any to start investing in our homeless fellows.
Dan Neiditch is the president of River 2 River Realty, Inc., a real estate business that offers diverse real estate services for customers in New York and beyond. Neiditch learned the industry through his real estate family business and has gone on to procure, develop, and revitalize real estate developments on a much larger scale than his family ever thought possible.
Under Dan Neiditch’s stewardship, his family’s business has grown into a multibillion dollar real estate empire — acquiring $1 billion in real estate holdings to date. Today, River 2 River Realty is part of multiple prestigious organizations on both local and national levels. The Real Estate Board of New York, REBNY Listing Service, National Association of Realtors have all welcomed River 2 River Realty as a member. Dan uses these exciting memberships to help customers get access to the latest and greatest properties available in New York. The business’ ties with national organizations also helps sellers expand their outreach across the country.
Because Dan grew up surrounded by a real estate-savvy family, he and his family have amassed a total of 70 years of experience — which Dan Neiditch brings to customers who are overwhelmed or uninformed about the many aspects of the market.
Now, best known as president of the Atelier Condos in Manhattan (which boasts solar panels, the tallest swimming pool and tennis courts, and celebrity tenants), Dan Neiditch is an experienced leader in New York’s dynamic real estate market. Atelier is one of Daniel’s greatest accomplishments as a leader in real estate.
With his vision in mind for the redevelopment of the property located on West 42nd Street in New York City, Neiditch offers Atelier tenants an unbeatable view of the city. It overlooks the Hudson River to the west, and residents can see the iconic Empire State Building and Times Square from their homes.
Though attributed with an impressive business acumen, Dan is also passionate about charity work. Dan uses his experience in River 2 River Realty, Inc. to help those in need. A hands-on philanthropist, Dan Neiditchnot only donates funds to various organizations, he travels to disadvantaged countries abroad, and volunteers as an on-call EMT locally in New York City.
Dan devotes a lot of his philanthropic efforts to funding the basic medical and personal care that every child deserves. He provides financial donations to children who need lifesaving organ transplant surgeries. One of Dan’s most fulfilling experiences was traveling to Africa with an organization that provided doctors for children who needed medical attention. He also contributes to organizations that provide important necessities for the homeless and has personally helped them find employment opportunities.
As a businessman and philanthropist, Dan Neiditch chooses his professional and personal projects with a careful, deliberate, and a thoughtful outlook — thus making him a recognizable figure in the real estate industry within New York and beyond. Neiditch’s articles on real estate, philanthropy, and business have appeared on the likes of Huffington Post .
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have a lot of meetings in a day — high level and day-to-day level meetings. As someone who likes to be involved with every aspect of my business, I meet with agents, contractors, and building management to get updates on our properties. Do we need to work on our pricing? Are the contractors hitting deadlines? What other investments can we make, get rid of, expand, etc.
I have my head and my hands in everything, so I rarely take notes. I like to be present and listen and see what’s going on, so I try to keep track of everything in my head when I can.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a group of people who are constantly bringing me ideas. But before I choose to turn an idea into a reality, I crunch numbers. As an investor, entrepreneur, or businessman, you have to learn to love numbers. Without being able to calculate what ideas make sense to build, you’re already starting out in the negative.
I never jump until I know that the cost structure is solid, the tax implications are attractive, etc. — then, I buy, build, or pass.
What trend excites you?
Solar energy excites and inspires me, which is why Atelier has solar panels installed. It’s the highest building in NYC with solar panels, and that’s something I’m really proud of. I’m always looking for new ways to introduce solar power into New York. I think we could do a lot better. As a city with 8 million people, we need to do better. We consume too much energy not to.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
It’s more a discipline that became a habit: consistency. I practice due diligence in everything I do but especially in my business. I wouldn’t be able to lead anything, much less a successful business, if I weren’t consistent.
More than anything, being consistent and even-keeled makes people trust you. No one trusts someone who’s always changing his mind. Nothing tears down trust and confidence from your staff and clients more than that.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Your first decision is usually the right one. Stick to your gut and don’t let other people dissuade you from what you want to do.
Tell us something that is true that no one agrees with you on.
I see a lot of investors who don’t take risks. Before I took over the family real estate business, my grandfather and father played things pretty safe. They bought real estate only in the Bronx where my grandfather grew up, and only complexes with a specific number of units. They were also really against leveraging debt or taking risks.
And they’re not alone. Even today, people are afraid to take risks, but I always have and do. When people are afraid to buy, I buy; a lot of people won’t do that.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never stop studying or learning — about your market, your industry, whatever it is you do. You can’t make good decisions if you don’t study trends. To paraphrase Warren Buffett, what we’ve learned from history is that we never learn from history. In other words, don’t just study trends forward, study the trends in your industry that came before, and figure out what mistakes people made in the past.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
There are two related strategies that have helped me grow my business: being aggressive and being proactive. I’m always looking for new projects because I like being ahead of the curve; I have to be if I want to build and maintain a successful venture. Once I have my head fixed on something, I go for it. I go all in. I think aggressiveness is a lot like having a positive attitude in that you know for a fact you’re going to do something. When there is no doubt, there is only room to grow.
What is the one failure you had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
Mistakes happen, especially when you’re first starting out. My biggest mistake was that I trusted the wrong people in the beginning. I trusted that they were giving me the right numbers or the right advice.
But looking back, I’m glad for that experience, because now, all the final decisions are made by me. Who I choose to trust, even the way I think about trust, has changed. I never assume someone else is doing my homework for me, which is why I always go back and make sure everything is in order.
It’s not that I am constantly suspicious, because that’s no way to live, but I rely on my own intel before I assume someone else’s is better.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As I mentioned earlier, solar power inspires me and maybe people don’t know that solar is more than just solar panels. The use of solar power in the U.S. is still lacking. There are a lot of applications that aren’t being implemented.
There’s one thing that Europe, specifically Denmark, is doing that hasn’t caught on in the United States yet, and that’s solar water pumping systems. Though it’s usually utilized on farms and other rural areas to water crops, it’d be a great coup for investors, especially ones in the real estate industry.
I recently read a Forbes article that says hotels use 50% more energy than multifamily buildings even though they have little over 50% occupancy most of the time. Imagine how much energy luxury hotels would be saving if they used solar power…
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently had an amazing glass of champagne at Daniel Boulud’s Daniel’srestaurant which I would personally rate as the best restaurant in New York.
When you pay for a service, regardless of its cost, you’re paying for nostalgia or memory. That champagne tasted amazing because I was in my favorite restaurant relaxing with people I wanted to be with. That’s worth way more than $100 in my book.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
River2River uses an internal database that has trackable properties in the market. It gives comps, props, and breaks down everything in simple numbers. It makes it easier for me to keep track of what’s happening in the markets and industry, and helps me make smarter decisions.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recently read “Made to Stick“ which breaks down why some ideas work and others fail. If I pick up a book, it’s non-fiction, and only because I think it will teach me something. I like the idea of perpetual learning, and I encourage others to think the same way. The minute you think you’ve done all the research or know everything you need to about your business, it’s over.
What is your favorite quote?
“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” — Warren Buffett
If you’ve done your homework, paid your dues, and stuck to your gut, you’re not taking a risk so much as a decision based on experience that you can back up. I can back up my decisions because where I am today is proof I’ve made good choices and taken the right risks.
Highly transparent and under-leveraged, the New York real estate market is one of the most stable in the world. If you are looking to make a savvy investment, now is a great time to beat rising property values — which are expected to increase by as much as 20 percent over the next three years — to secure real estate that will generate returns for years to come.
Traditionally, investors looked for opportunities in the affluent suburbs of Long Island and New Jersey, but growth in those areas has become stagnate. But today, we look to Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Hudson County, which are areas that are growing rapidly thanks to new job opportunities, especially in healthcare.
Healthcare jobs are growing by five percent per year — twice as fast as finance, the region’s primary economic and population driver — and account for 84 percent of New York City’s total population growth between 2015 and 2016. The rapid growth has increased New York’s population to a record high of 8,550,405 and shows no signs of slowing.
Here are the five most promising investment opportunities in the New York real estate sector to keep up with growth and changing demographics.
1. Apartment Buildings
As high home prices continue to rise and the city’s population continues to grow, a majority of New York residents are being driven into apartment building rentals located in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Hudson County. Therefore, apartment buildings purchased at the right price today can be a very lucrative investment.
2. Single-family Homes to be converted into Multiple Units
Because home prices are high compared to rents, pure single-family rentals are not likely to be lucrative investments, unless you’re looking to invest in a special area or are driven by other special circumstances. However, the high home prices that are driving people into renting can be lucrative if you’re able to purchase and refashion a single-family home into one featuring multiple units.
3. Retail Stores
Recent population increases in Brooklyn, and especially in Queens, have not been matched by the availability of new stores. In addition, the Bronx is underserved by new stores. Because healthcare jobs are growing and generating lower-, middle-, and higher-tier income across the city, retail stores are a reasonably safe investment.
4. Office Buildings
The same healthcare sector growth that is creating a need for new apartment buildings and stores, is also generating the need for new office space. Although millions of square feet of new office space are already under construction in Queens and Brooklyn, there is presently no indication that demand in those boroughs will slow even as the new planned office towers take shape. In fact, the office booms in these boroughs signal a healthy long-term future for New York’s overall economy.
Office space in Manhattan may also be a good investment, as Manhattan is still the center of the New York office world. Although 20 million additional square feet of office space are being constructed in Manhattan and are expected to be available by 2021, the number of new offices is insufficient to meet the demand from a booming economy. Nevertheless, reports have not accounted for additional space that is to be provided by new World Trade Center Towers, and the future absorption rate for new office space is unclear.
5. Mortgages and Construction Loans
Rising home prices will keep equity rising, too, making mortgages a sound investment. Although there is always some risk of default, that risk is just about average right now because rising home prices are in balance with incomes.
Alternatively, but in the same vein, construction loans will also go up with only an average risk of default, making them another prudent investment. Ingo Winzer, contributor to Forbes and president of Local Market Monitor — which has followed real estate dynamics since 1989 in over 300 communities — predicts 45,000 new houses and 70,000 apartments will be constructed in Queens over the next three years. Brooklyn will only see 40,000 new homes constructed, but 110,000 new apartments. The Bronx will likely experience modest new home construction but is expected to grow by 60,000 new apartments.
The idea that New York real estate is out-of-reach for those looking for sound investments may be closer to reach than many would think. The worst thing to do when thinking of buying real estate is to wait — especially in the ever-booming New York City.
New York City is famous the world over for its glitz and glamour, featured in all sorts of popular entertainment from movies to television shows. Yet not all that glitters is gold. Life in paradise is much harder than one may think. In fact, many New Yorkers are one paycheck away from homelessness, forced into a monthly catch-22–a cycle causing of perpetual anxiety.
A recently published study from the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) found that more than half of New Yorkers are without savings of any kind. Another study by theCenter for Economic Opportunity (CEO), reveals that nearly 25% of Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are living below the federal poverty level, homeless, or both. That same CEO report shows that while there has been a steady improvement over the years, these numbers don’t lie. There is a continual indication that many New Yorkers are wading just above the poverty line, and minorities living within the five boroughs are suffering the most. In those communities, there is a distinct lack of emergency savings, employment, and pursuit towards or opportunities for higher education, especially in the neighborhoods of Harlem in Manhattan and Bushwick in Brooklyn, among just two minority-rich communities.
According to the Shelter Census Report from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the past five years have seen an explosive increase in shelter attendance. In 2011, there were just under 40,000 people. As of October 2016, there were 62,306 people in the shelter system, a marked increase of over 20,000, or just about fifty percent.
At the national level, the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) from 2015, compiled by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, found that California and Florida also have a homeless population greater than six percent of their population. Other states which have significantly high homeless populations per capita include Texas and Massachusetts.
As with many large cities, New York City and its residents are not immune to economic or health factors that can cause homelessness. While numerous reports say that there are many families who bounce back quickly from being homeless, there are just as many who likely do not recover due to exigent circumstances. Some of the major causes of homelessness are a death in the family, (followed by the loss of the sole income in the household), or an unexpected financial debt that becomes too difficult to repay. Other major triggers for homelessness include hazardous housing conditions, job loss, overcrowding, eviction, and domestic violence.
Even in the best of times, life in New York City can be tough. And despite economic growth and an increase in jobs, these are far from the best of times. According to the Coalition for the Homeless,homelessness in New York City has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. How can New Yorkers solve these problems? That’s up in the air, but a good start is de-stigmatizing homelessness and lobbying for increased affordable housing.