Columns

Despite Crisis, the Census is Vitally Important

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Once every 10 years, Americans participate in the census, a vital civic exercise that helps strengthen municipalities, provides crucial funding for our state and gathers information for public services. Even during this unprecedented crisis with COVID-19, we still need New Yorkers to do their part.

In compliance with most recent guidance, the U.S. Census Bureau had suspended all field operations for two weeks until April 1 and plans to begin visiting households in May to carry out the 2020 Census. In the meantime, we can respond to the census at my2020census.gov, over the phone or by mail.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) urges all New Yorkers to do their part to ensure an accurate count. While the census is critical for the real estate industry, it is just as critical for all of New York.

Basic demographic data from the census forms the bedrock of policy decisions that inform the allocation of billions of dollars in government money each year. This funding helps determine when and where critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges and railways are built and which areas need more investment in public schools, senior care centers and health care facilities.

It also helps public policy experts better understand population trends over time.

The census is not only the basis for federal assistance housing programs, it provides city planners the ability to make decisions. Decisions regarding proper land use, location of housing to meet demand, local transportation improvements and other critical urban development matters should begin with the latest and most complete data possible.

The census is critical to the health of cities, towns and municipalities across the United States, but few areas depend as much on an accurate census as New York.

For New Yorkers, COVID-19 raises concerns that some of the city’s most historically undercounted populations could be further underrepresented this year.

Historically, in-person counts are the most effective method of conducting the census in minority communities, on college campuses, at senior and assisted living facilities and for people experiencing homelessness.

New York has a history of undercounting our residents in the census; the national self-response rate for the 2010 census was 76%, while in New York City, it was just 62%. This is detrimental to the future success of the five boroughs, and the state deserves praise for committing by far the most significant investment in the 2020 census of any municipality in the country to close this gap.

This year, online access to the census questionnaire debuted. Everyone will now be able to self-report online at their own convenience. With New York State’s mandate that all non-essential businesses move to telecommuting or working from home, it’s a no-brainer to fill out the form online for the betterment of New York from the comfort and safety of your home.

As city and state officials continue to take bold steps to help address the coronavirus crisis, we are seeing every day how New Yorkers embody the spirit that makes New York City one of the world’s most vibrant cities. We now have the opportunity to bring that same energy to the 2020 Census, which will have a tangible impact on the future of our great city.

REBNY strongly encourages all of its members, alongside every New Yorker, to fill out their 2020 Census by visiting my2020census.gov.

James Whelan
Real Estate Board of New York
570 Lexington Avenue,
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10022
jwhelan@rebny.com
212-616-5200