Why New York Needs An Accurate Census Count

The task of fairly and accurately accounting for each person residing in the United States is the bedrock of sound and informed public policy decisions. Understanding who lives where, and how they live, is an essential component of decisions at every level of government. It’s equally essential to the real estate industry in a dynamic, ever-evolving urban center like New York City—and it is exactly why the Real Estate Board of New York is so encouraged by a recent federal court decision that all New Yorkers should applaud.

That’s because the decision overruled a controversial question that would have, if implemented, added a controversial “citizenship” question to the census for the first time. This would have diluted the results by driving away vulnerable New Yorkers with fears over their immigration status, and in the process, prevented the vital collection of data to plan for the next decade in New York City. The 2020 Census, too, will be a crucial one for the future of the City.

The census has a direct impact on New York’s affordability crisis. Current population growth models suggest the situation will become exacerbated without action. That means a meticulous accounting of neighborhood growth is required to forecast future needs.

That is why the upcoming census is so important—it will provide critical information on the changing demographics and population makeup of our neighborhoods and inform decisions about how to build smarter.

A new action committee formed by the Association for a Better New York is working to ensure the city is not undercounted. An effort is underway to focus on improving outreach and messaging to communities that have historically been left out of census counts. In addition, Speaker Corey Johnson appointed Council Members Carlina Rivera and Carlos Menchaca to lead a City Council task force to examine census-related issues.

The latest update to the 2010 Census, released in 2016, revealed that the city is currently in the midst of a population boom the likes of which we haven’t seen in half a century. As a result, officials, city planners, urbanists and the real estate industry have been able to react to those developments and work towards meeting the needs of New Yorkers and prospective New Yorkers alike.

Census data informs decisions around critical issues like land use, the production of housing at every income level, transportation improvements and infrastructural rehabilitation—each of which are essential to creating a more accessible and affordable New York City.

But beyond even producing an adequate amount of housing and providing the infrastructure to ensure citizens can get around efficiently, the census also informs the location of public goods like new schools and facilities that deliver health care, provide care for children or assist our elderly community. To maximize impact, each of those decisions must be informed by changing demographics and understand changes over time.

As cities and states across America prepare for the census, the stakes for New York could not be higher. New York risks several losses if the state is undercounted, including fewer Congressional representatives and decreased federal funding. REBNY strongly supports all efforts to ensure the upcoming census will be as accurate as possible.