Friday, June 16, 2006

This Just In: Cheap Apartments are Scarce in NYC

... and they're getting scarcer.

Housing Tighter for New Yorkers of Moderate Pay

"The number of New York City apartments considered affordable to hundreds of thousands of moderate-income households-- with incomes like those of starting firefighters and police officers-- plunged by 17 percent between 2002 and 2005, according to a new report by researchers at New York University."

More gloom and doom... I do think this is a real problem in New York-- yes, it may always be the financial capital of the country and may always have a phenomenal concentration of wealth, but that doesn't mean there can't be diverse range of income levels here. There has to be.

As usual, though, with any article about NYC real estate, I find myself wanting to dig deeper and know more. This article says that the median rent for unsubsidized apartments in the city jumped from $750 to $900 in the last 3 years-- I suspect that most NY Times readers, like myself, read that and think, "Wow, are HALF the city's apartments really less than $900?? If so, why doesn't anyone I know have one?"
I'm not questioning the existence of these apartments, just pointing out that for many people, their idea of NYC is very much limited to what goes on in Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn, not the further reaches of the outer boroughs. Yes, it should worry everyone that housing costs are increasing while the median income is declining (from $42,700 to $40,000 from 2002-2005), but let's get a fuller picture of what is going on. The article says that the number of "more expensive" apartments has been increasing, and gives the percentage and unit increases for apartments renting for $1000-1200, $1200-1400, and $1400+. What about $2000+? $3000+? Yes these are well above the median, but they are still ranges that would be quite normal for Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. I would love to see how all their data broke out by borough and neighborhood rather than just looking at city-wide averages.
Of course my perspective is that of an above-median income earner who wants to know more about the situation of her own peers, but I'm actually glad the article focused on the median and below levels. NYC is one of those examples of how skewed averages and medians can be. Everyone thinks of NYC as having this enormous amount of wealth-- average incomes and housing prices seem astronomical, but medians are far less so, because ultimately, though there are quite a few rich people here, they are still far outnumbered by middle- and low-income people. It's like the old "millionaire in the room" example: if you have 10 people in a room and 9 of them make $50,000 a year but the tenth makes $1 million a year, the group's average income is $145,000, but their median income is only $50,000.
I love statistics. They can tell so many lies but there is so much truth in them too.

1 comment:

uzvards said...

You've mentioned $900/mo appartments in NYC. In San Francisco it won't be easy (if possible at all) to find a studio for less than $1,000/mo. Or should I say $1,200/mo?!