New York versus Los Angeles — multi-family housing

When thinking about housing in New York, the first thing that comes to mind is apartments, especially in large structures. For Los Angeles, on the other hand, it is the large expanses of single-family homes. So let’s look at the percentages of housing units in multi-family structures. For this purpose, I am considering units in structures with 3 or more units, since duplexes or other 2-unit structures seem to me more like single-family housing. All of the data are from the American Community Survey for 2015, 1-year data.

We’ll start by comparing New York City with the City of Los Angeles:

  • New York City, 71 percent multi-family
  • City of Los Angeles, 52 percent multi-family

New York, as expected, has a larger share of housing units in multi-family structures. But Los Angeles has a surprisingly high share, just over half. So the City of Los Angeles is far from being primarily single-family housing.

Of course the cities are just a part of the larger urban areas, and the suburban portions outside the large cities tend to have more single-family housing. So let’s consider multi-family housing in the census Urbanized Areas (as defined in 2010):

  • New York Urbanized Area, 48 percent multi-family
  • Los Angeles Urbanized Area, 40 percent multi-family

The proportions are lower, as expected, but now the difference between New York and Los Angeles is considerably less.

The final comparison looks at multi-family housing in the suburban portions of the Urbanized Areas, the areas outside of the cities of New York and Los Angeles:

  • New York suburbs (Urbanized Area outside city), 28 percent multi-family
  • Los Angeles suburbs (Urbanized Area outside city), 34 percent multi-family

The Los Angeles suburbs actually have a higher proportion of multifamily housing than the New York suburbs. This would be one factor contributing to the Los Angeles suburbs being twice as dense as New York’s (as mentioned in this earlier post).


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