It started as a joke in the Onion: Nation's Gentrified Neighborhoods Threatened By Aristocratization. The problem is that it is not a joke, but a reality now, as the very rich turn entire apartment buildings into single family houses. We have covered this before but it is reaching new heights.
The Wall Street Journal describes a couple of projects, including one that converted a building with ten 500 square foot apartments into a single family six bedroom house, which immediately sold for $21 million.
Architect Robert Stern's son lives in one, converted from four apartments into one house. According to the Journal:
Nick Stern, head of a residential construction management and general contracting firm and son of architect Robert A.M. Stern, purchased a four-unit apartment building in New York’s West Village with three tenants who had two-year leases in place. He did about 1½ years of the work with the tenants there, then moved into the building’s owner’s unit with his wife, where they eventually had three children. He then spent 1½ years finishing the work while living there with his family.
“I put the tenants through hell, and then I put my family through hell,” he says. The end result, though, is a roughly 6,000-square-foot, six-story townhome designed by Randy Correll at Robert A.M. Stern’s architecture firm, with input from the elder Mr. Stern.
The Journal notes that this doesn't happen in San Francisco because there are regulations restricting the removal of housing units from the market. But in New York there appear to be few impediments to reducing housing supply, which according to all those smart economists, causes prices to rise.
But these same economists, who want to get rid of zoning and heritage restrictions and let a thousand towers bloom, miss the point that the problems in our big cities aren't caused by restrictions on density and height, but by inequality.
There is a serious housing affordability crisis in successful cities across North America, and the blame keeps being pinned on "nostalgists and NIMBYs" But clearly, in New York City, a lot of the blame can be put on this trend to de-densification, where fewer and fewer very rich people push everybody else out.