Renting in NYC: How the Economy is Making it Tough

The housing market has always been a large indicator of economic standing. When the economy is doing well, real estate value goes up, rent increases and residents are expected to keep up. However, when the economy is doing poorly, rent prices do not follow the decreasing trend, and for those with stagnant wages, finding affordable housing in big cities is not made any easier.

As property values rise, wages stay the same, or do not rise as steadily as cost of living. According to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, the cost-of-living adjustment equals 1.2 percent, or an increase of $216, for 2017. For employers, this adjustment is an indicator of appropriate raises to offer employees to keep up with their cost of living—but for those without that luxury, the future looms with threats of gentrification.

Rent Control

New York’s rent control program is the longest running program in the nation, with over one million New York City apartments rent-regulated. This is meant to slow gentrification, as the cost of low-income housing rises, and prevent people from being forced out of their homes and neighborhoods where they might otherwise have to find affordable housing further away from central areas they previously considered home.


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Large metropolitan areas contain thousands of entry-level, service industry employees who are directly impacted by an increase in rent prices. Earning minimum wage, even somewhere like NYC, where the minimum wage is several dollars higher than other areas of the country, can make it difficult to make ends meet, because it is not designed to be a livable wage. These populations are the most vulnerable to spikes in housing costs.

To combat gentrification, affordable rental housing programs through the NYC Housing Authority (i.e. section 8) create exclusive housing options for certain families and individuals who meet income guidelines. This prevents companies from buying up property in low-income areas and raising the prices for people who live there. Section 8 housing and rent control are resources in place to stabilize the accessibility of housing.

Finding an Apartment

Regardless of price, trying to find an apartment can be a demanding process in a place like New York City, where brokers, property managers and landlords are trying to fill their properties without prioritizing an individual’s needs. In an economy that constantly changes and creates a difficult environment for renting in big cities, there are companies that offer assistance in finding NYC apartments that meet each individual’s needs.

Affordable housing is competitively sought in any city, but in popular urban areas, it can be extremely difficult to find. The cheapest spaces are found through word of mouth and connections, and usually have a waiting list of interested applicants. As it can take a long time to get from one end of a burrough to the other, a central location, as well as affordability, are the top requirements.

Even those who can afford more are looking for the best deal for their living space, which is usually any person’s largest monthly expense. There’s a large range of wealth in NYC; it’s an expensive city where even a stable income doesn’t always go a long way. As the economy and the housing market slow, more people start looking for places to rent. These are a few of many factors that affect an individual’s ability to rent in big cities.

meAvery Phillips is a magical unicorn of a human being who loves everything human. She’s a fiery socialist and would love to talk about it. Tweet her @A_taylorian or comment below.