“Here’s a new twist on the affordability scale: middle-income renters have greater affordable housing issues than low-income renters! Tell that to the low-income housing advocates. I guess the affordability issue doesn’t die until everyone gets a subsidy. “
– Jack Freund, Executive Vice President, Rent Stabilization Association
(Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the RSA.)
High rents hitting middle-class New Yorkers
Families in the middle squeezed the most over the last decade, according to a new study.
By Tania Karas
Skyrocketing rents are increasingly squeezing middle-class New Yorkers, according to a report released Wednesday by City Comptroller John Liu.
The report shows that almost half of city households spend more than 30% of their income on rent, compared with 26% of households nationally. Federal benchmarks deem rent unaffordable when it exceeds 30% of household income.
Middle-income renters, defined as those earning between $35,000 and $75,000 annually, face the most pressure in Manhattan, where 45% pay rent that is officially “unaffordable.” But even those living in less expensive Staten Island and Queens aren’t much better off. There, 44% of middle-class residents in both boroughs shoulder unaffordable housing costs.
According to the study, 30% of New Yorkers devote more than half their income to rent alone. The high cost of living here is threatening to drive the middle class out of the city, Mr. Liu said.
“Working families should not be forced to leave town or live in inferior housing,” he said. “We need to invest more in affordable housing for middle-income renters so that our city is not only home to the very wealthy and the very poor but also to the vast majority of New Yorkers who fall in between.”
Some 70% of New Yorkers rent their homes, compared with 30% nationally. The vacancy rate of rental housing is 3% in New York City, compared with 10% nationally, and falls to less than 1% at peak times of the year.
The comptroller’s study, titled “Rents through the Roof,” cited census data showing that the high cost of living in the city disproportionately affects middle-income households. Low-income and high-income families don’t face the same pressures. Those earning less than $35,000 can turn to affordable-housing programs, while those in high-income brackets spend a similar percentage of their income on rent as the rest of the U.S.
And relief for the middle class is nowhere on the horizon, the study points out, as New Yorkers continue to face rising rents and record-low vacancy rates. In 2000, 23 of the city’s rental units were unaffordable to middle-income households, but that figure had jumped to 38% in 2010.
Source: Crain’s New York