Rent in New York City is notoriously unreasonable, and it hit an all-time high this year. According to a report from StreetEasy, the median asking price for the entire city reached $3,500 in June, up 35% from last year.
Manhattan currently has the highest average rent of $4,100, but that doesn’t mean the other boroughs are ripe for stealing. Those who prefer to rent in the city, but don’t want to pay astronomical prices, turn their eyes to Brooklyn and Queens, which is also driving up rents there.
In June, the median rent in Brooklyn was $3,200 and in Queens $2,600.
In both Brooklyn and Manhattan, renters spend more than 50% of their salary on rent, and in Queens they spend more than 40%. This goes well beyond the rule of thumb that your rent should not exceed 30% of your income.
These rents are a shock to New Yorkers who moved here during the pandemic and to those who lived here long before.
‘For a week I was just collapsing’
In the heat of the pandemic, tenants had the bargaining power. Now that many leases signed during the pandemic are due for renewal, power is once again in the hands of landlords.
Kacie Cleary, 39, and her husband have lived in their one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side since 2015 and received a $450 rent reduction during the pandemic, bringing it down to $2,000. Recently, however, her landlord informed them that their rent would increase by $700.
“When we got a new rent increase, we really wanted to talk to the landlord and discuss an option, can we negotiate a little bit or is there wiggle room,” she says. “And they just wrote back within 15 minutes and said no, that they’d already given us a preferential rate of that $700 increase. So they weren’t willing to give in to negotiations at all.”
The two thought about signing a lease somewhere else, but Cleary lost her job, so they decided to move to an Airbnb until she finds work.
Ernestine Siu*, 23, moved to the East Village in January 2021 and bought an apartment with a roommate when prices were low.
“So our rent was actually discounted,” she says. “And our apartment also has a washer-dryer, which you don’t find a lot in New York City unless you pay a premium.”
This year, her rent nearly doubled from $2,250 to $4,395.
“So when we received the lease renewal in the mail, we knew right away that we weren’t going to do this,” she says.
She and her roommate began their search and were shocked by what was available.
“For a whole week I was just tearing down, looking at the prices,” she says. “One day I literally called my mom and I was like, ‘Mom, I feel like a failure. I can’t even afford to live in the city.'”
After visiting three or four places, the two ended up in a Brooklyn spot that ended up being $4,400.
“I’ve actually decided that I need to change my lifestyle a bit and save where I can,” she says.
‘I’m going to put my things away’
However, for some tenants the rent increase was enough to leave the city.
Thelma Rosa Annan, 32, moved into her Manhattan apartment in 2020 when it cost $1,882. In 2021, the rent went up to $2,400 and this year to $3,500.
“I actually refreshed my page because I thought this was a mistake and I looked at the song and I just started laughing because it was so ridiculous,” she says. “I started laughing because I thought, ‘$3,500, $3,500, $3,500.’ For example, I had to keep saying it out loud to myself because it was such a ridiculous number that I thought, ‘This can’t be possible.'”
Although she is grateful to have spent two years in the city, she does not want to pay the bounty anymore.
“I’m going to store my stuff and go to Europe and work remotely there,” she says. “And hope housing calms down in New York.”
*Ernestine Siu is an Associate Producer at CNBC Make It
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