Long Island's focus on single-family housing worked well during the first decades after World War II, as tens of thousands of city residents flocked in search of modest suburban capes and ranches to raise the baby boomer generation. As the island's prosperity grew, those houses became increasingly large and expensive, occupying open spaces and leaving urban centers that were once vibrant and leaving behind pockets of impoverishment for minorities and financially unfortunate people. Today, even middle-class Long Islanders struggle to cope with the high cost of housing. People with lower salaries obviously bear an even greater housing burden.
Over the years, residents have championed efforts to diversify the island's housing stock with higher-density apartments and housing developments that neighbored suburban areas. As a result, Long Island has a critical shortage of affordable multi-family units for both young residents and retirees looking to downsize. While the region has recently started to address the crisis, it will take decades to catch up. Regional planners are concerned about Long Island's shrinking open space and how best to meet the housing needs of future residents. An obvious answer lies in the island's more than 100 urban centers and in the thousands of acres of available space surrounding the Long Island Rail Road stations.
Collectively, this future-ready space totals more than 8,000 acres, about the same as half of Manhattan south of 50th Street. In fact, urban centers and train station areas have the capacity to produce as much housing as all the open spaces that have yet to be urbanized on Long Island. Long Island has 8,300 acres of underutilized properties in our urban centers and around our train stations. These acres represent untapped potential that could begin to address our housing challenges, offering the next generation and boomer-generation seniors a place to live. Remodeling just 50 percent of the available parking space, vacant lots, and other spaces in the city center could produce 90,000 units of new housing, enough to accommodate more than 200,000 new residents.
And that's without taking into account all the underutilized industrial properties and abandoned shopping malls that also dot the Long Island landscape. That changed as post-war real estate developers moved farther and farther away from LIRR roads and created a new transportation paradigm in which the automobile was king. As the number of passengers on the train declined, investment followed suit, leaving us with a better equipped transportation system for the first half of the 20th century than for the beginning of the 21st century. In the last decade, local government spending increased by 57% and tax revenues increased by 64%, even though inflation reached a total of only 30% in the ten years that have elapsed and the population grew by a tiny 3%. School districts' spending increased the most during that period, with an increase of 70 percent. However, special districts such as libraries, water, garbage and fire departments were not far behind with an increase of 66 percent. Additional public transportation, increased sewer networks, and development of multi-family housing on land already commercialized are just a few of the ways Long Island can ease pressure on Mother Nature.
President of the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce Inc., we must urgently address this issue as it will exhaust Long Island's talent and have a negative impact on the region's economy. Governor Kathy Hochul visited Patchogue in Suffolk County Long Island today with local leaders and elected officials to highlight key components of New York Housing Pact - Governor's comprehensive strategy announced in Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget to address New York's housing crisis and build 800,000 new homes over next decade. Nearly a quarter of all Long Island residents already live less than half a mile from downtown station or LIRR - many (45 percent according to recent survey) imagine living in mixed-income communities where you can walk close to public transportation. Suffolk County is facing many pressing issues such as high cost of housing, lack of affordable multi-family units for young residents and retirees looking to downsize, shrinking open space, inadequate public transportation infrastructure, lack of investment in LIRR roads leading to an outdated transportation system, increasing local government spending without corresponding population growth or inflation rate. The solution lies in utilizing available resources such as urban centers around LIRR stations which have capacity to produce as much housing as all open spaces yet to be urbanized on Long Island.
Remodeling 50 percent of available parking space, vacant lots and other spaces in city center could produce 90,000 units enough to accommodate more than 200,000 new residents without taking into account underutilized industrial properties or abandoned shopping malls. To address these issues New York Housing Pact was announced which aims at building 800,000 new homes over next decade. To ensure success it is important for Suffolk County residents to come together and work towards creating mixed-income communities close to public transportation while also investing in additional public transportation infrastructure.