New York mayoral candidates go viral for vastly underestimating housing costs

Two New York mayoral candidates went viral this week after widely underestimating the median value of a home in Brooklyn.

In interviews with The New York Times’s editorial board for the paper’s potential endorsement, Shaun Donovan, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary and budget director under former President Obama and as housing commissioner under former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, guessed that the median sale price for a home or apartment in Brooklyn is “around $100,000.”

Ray McGuire, an investment banker and former Citigroup executive, estimated that the median sales price is “somewhere in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, if not higher.”

The median sales price in the borough is $900,000.

The Times’s editorial board noted that Donovan later emailed to say that he was referring to the “assessed value of homes in Brooklyn.”

“I really don’t think you can buy a house in Brooklyn today for that little,” he wrote, according to the Times’s editorial board.

But a slate of journalists and other Twitter users were quick to jab the candidates for their far-off responses on the city’s housing.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang was the only New York mayoral hopeful given an interview with the Times who got the question correct.

“I would just say that the median — it’s going to be something, like, much higher than it should be. So the number that popped into my mind is $900,000,” Yang told the editorial board.  

Kathryn Garcia, who previously served as commissioner of New York’s Sanitation Department and whom the Times’s editorial board ultimately endorsed, said $800,000, while New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said $1 million.

Jeremy Edwards, Donovan’s press secretary, said in a statement to The Hill that Donovan “misinterpreted the question and made a mistake.” 
“He had been volunteering on a complex housing assessment lawsuit and just got the numbers mixed up,” Edwards said. “As Shaun says, he is a housing nerd and public servant who has dedicated 30 years of his life to solving the problems of housing affordability and homelessness, and the wrong number slipped out. It happens to the best of us.” 

McGuire in a response to The Hill said “I messed up when accounting for the cost of housing in Brooklyn. I am human.”

“But make no mistake, I care deeply about our city’s affordable housing crisis. I know what it’s like not being able to afford a home because it was my own experience. At the heart of my housing plan, which addresses the entire housing spectrum from homelessness to homeownership, are New Yorkers who want leadership that will bring creative, data driven solutions to housing in New York City,” he added.

Updated 12:10 p.m.

Tags Andrew Yang Kathryn Garcia Michael Bloomberg New York New York City mayoral race New York mayor Ray McGuire Shaun Donovan The New York Times

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