Rents Soar While Income Falls in Brooklyn

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Average rents rose 77 percent in Brooklyn while city wide real median income fell 4.8 percent from 2000 to 2012, according to a report out from the city comptroller described in The New York Post. The increases were the largest in any borough.

A story in the Times implied that meeting Mayor de Blasio’s stated goal of keeping or creating 200,000 affordable units will not fix the problem:

In an interview, Mr. Stringer said numeric goals were not enough. He noted that the Bloomberg administration spent $5.3 billion of city money and leveraged another $18.3 billion to both create new affordable units and preserve existing housing — for a total of 165,000 units over 12 years — yet the city today is still grappling with record homelessness and the loss of low-rent housing.

A separate story in the Post described a young woman paying only $1,256 a month in rent for a spacious two-bedroom rent stabilized in Crown Heights — on the face of it, an excellent deal. But, with a salary of only $30,000 a year before taxes for her retail sales job, she can barely afford it. Her landlord has offered her money to move, but she didn’t take it, knowing she would not be able to find a lower rent elsewhere.

Rents are going up and wages are falling everywhere, not just in New York City. “In the rest of the nation, rents rose by 50.1 percent over the same period — hitting an average of $773 per month,” said the Post.

The comptroller’s report recommended that affordable housing in New York City should focus on the poorest, not middle income New Yorkers. What do you think should be done?

New York City Housing Push Should Aim at Poorest, Report Says [NY Times]
NYC Rents Skyrocket as Incomes Lag [NY Post]
As Rents Rise, Some Stuck in Affordable Homes With Moving Too Costly [NY Post]

55 Comment

  • If you have a two bedroom rent stabilized apartment that you can’t afford as a single person, and it’s in a privately owned building, and you’re the only tenant of record on the lease, I thought that under the rent stabilization laws you’re entitled to have a roommate – as long as you remain the person responsible for paying the rent to the landlord. So unless the apartment described in the Post article is subsidized or in public housing, it seems that getting a roommate would be the easiest way for the young woman in question to cut her housing costs in half.

  • bowlofdicks

    To the young, underpaid woman who can barely afford $1,256/mo for her spacious two-bedroom stabilized apartment: GET A ROOMMATE.

  • As someone who made about this and paid about that in rent at this woman’s same age… I have to say, I did not want a roommate. I wanted to be paid a living wage for my labor, and it got really, really old, scrambling for change to pay for the bus to go to work. The ugly truth is still there whether this woman gets a roommate or not–depressingly, $30K a year is actually good money for retail, even high-end retail, and it’s still not enough to keep a cat.

    She’s lucky to have the apartment and she knows it. Y’all are jealous of her apartment, which is sad, but not her problem.

  • Cry me a river Nefertiti, quit your whining and get a roommate. Not to mention she could get a retail job anywhere in the country, so if you cant afford it move to where you can. This is a typical case of the global economy outpacing the average working man or woman.

    I’m glad Stringer atleast ackowledged that the ridiculously low stabilized rents dont cover the operational costs of a building so they lay in ruin. The article talks about rents being up 77% over the past 12 years while incomes up roughly a third of that. Considering operational costs like water/sewer have been going up 6-7% over that same time frame thats an increase of over 100%-125% on a compounded basis for that one expense alone.

    Build more units that get tax help in high rise buildings , its the only viable way without state/federal money.

  • Some weird and slightly misleading statistics in the article. The rent increases are not adjusted for inflation, but income is adjusted for inflation. The income figure is for all of NYC, not just Brooklyn, though rents were up significantly in all boroughs–but things are close enough that real income probably rose in Brooklyn, as it clearly fell in the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens. Doesn’t change that rent is increasing faster than income in Brooklyn, but it does make the gap significantly less dramatic than the article suggests.

  • bowlofdicks

    “Some months, when money gets really tight, Macaulay thinks about the cash she could have gotten to pack up. Then she remembers she probably would have blown most of it on a more expensive apartment.” And the cycle continues……..

  • A crisis it is, but some speeches and studies wont help it. we need some real innovation.
    The study does not mention the increase in the last 14 years of property taxes-Electric rates-heating bills-water bills- Which I believe mirror or exceed the 77 percent increase in rent since 2000.
    Homeowners and building owners:
    Wasnt there an increase of about that or more on your electric/heating/water/property tax in the last 14 years?

  • translation: “I want more space than I need, and below-market rates, while someone else shoulders the financial burden, in one of the most expensive cities in the world, in a nice neighborhood, while working a retail job.”

    Priorities girl. I’ll be she also blows any discretionary income on lots of clothes and cocktails. No pity. Move to a studio in Queens.

  • Here is another reason there is a shortage of affordable housing you have this girl taking up an apartment way bigger than she needs that a low income family im sure would love to have.

  • yeah – no sympathy for someone who can’t afford their 2 bedroom by themselves.

  • The comments do not address the larger issue, rather it focuses on this one woman as reason enough to ignore what is being described as a trend. She is one example, but if the belief is “get a roommate” will solves the affordability crisis, then this converstaion is in vain.
    The larger point is that income have remained stagnant for quite some time, after adjusting for inflation. The cost of housing in NYC has increased, I would say above the rate inflation, therefore consuming more and more of take-home pay over the last few years. Focusing on one woman and her issue doesn’t make the larger problem go away. Now if there are legitimate concerns with the trend or you feel there is no trend at all, then that’s another issue and I understand that response – but no one has addressed the larger issue at hand.

    • daveinbedstuy

      The reality is that the incomes of most hard working people, including well into the middle class and lower management and mid management levels has remained flat since about 2008. Only the unions are getting raises and of them, primarily just the government employees. Nor do they have to contribute to health care and pensions while the rest of Americans are seeing dramatic rises in those costs.

      • But the level of incomes hasn’t happened in a vacuum. It is a zero-sum game – as a direct result of compensation decisions at the executive levels rerouting worker’s productivity gains to senior level and prioritization of the return of capital to investors. The unions are doing what they should be doing, looking out and advocating for their interests in a land where the “decision makers” are not doing so. It’s quite a rational response to the situation at hand. I’d also challenge you to base your assertions on unions on fact rather than just soundbites.

    • The cost of housing in NYC has gone up way more than the rate of inflation in recent decades. This is driven largely by increased demand as well as the rising costs to run and maintain buildings.

    • Montrose Morris

      Jay, as usual, you are a well stated voice of reason.

      • The stagnant wage issue is an easy one to point out but a next to impossible one to fix given the global economy is speeding up and competition from abroad has been dragging down growth potential for middle and lower income laborers. Those workers are now worth less and are feeling the pressure slowly but surely.

        The affordability issue is simple supply and demand; again from all geographies and that people all want to be in and around NYC.

        If you cant take the heat get out of the kitchen. Setting up a welfare state wont help in the long run. Make people earn what they get otherwise they never will and continue to be a growing burden on the rest of the economy.

        • I am not sure where your information comes from that the “global economy” is pulling down wages. I understand if you mean manufacturing but how is the service economy that is very local and does not face competition from abroad fall under these same pressures. If you look at the economic research, productivity has increased drastically, but wage growth has not increased in line with it – while I understand the manufacturing sector, but it doesn’t tell the full story by a long shot. It does have to do with executives and investors taking an ever larger share of productivity gains. For information on that, please see this article: http://money.cnn.com/2013/03/07/news/economy/compensation-productivity/

          Affordability is not simply supply and demand. From an economic perspective, it makes no sense, to me at least, that the market can not match price levels of apartments to specific income levels. As you can clearly see, there are different levels of demand at different price levels of real estate in NYC. Supply and demand, in its classical sense, assumes one type of product, indistinguishable from the next – like the celebrated widget. Real estate is very different than that. The banner of “let the free market do its thing” is always raised here as if it is the natural state of things. Newsflash, it’s not a natural state. The point is you can be against a “welfare state” but it only applies to low-income folks. No one is raising the pitchforks for the One57 development that is giving its billionaire buyers a tremendous amount of welfare through tax credits and tax breaks. No one raised any alarm for the Barclay’s Center and that development with massive welfare handouts. When they get handouts, we look the other way because it ‘feels” like capitalism. But when low-income folks get a break here in there – here comes the “Welfare state”.

          • Jay, while you are expanding on my points and partially disgreeing your analytical take is refreshing to most of the maniacal ranting and raving that often goes on in this forum even from some of the blog’s employees. I didnt go into super detail because generally when you do it falls on deaf ears, so my bad for playing to the status quo in this conversation.

            That being said, you are right productivity is up over 20% relative to 20 years ago most of that driven by improved technology across all sectors. Manufacturing is the easy one to call out but its much much wider than that and I deal with some of the largest outsourcing companies on a daily basis so those local service jobs you noted are really the only ones that are safe until drones bring people everything like Amazon wants to do.

            The elasticity of demand does fluctuate by price point largely because of bank lending criteria and unique assets related to a given location but is not outside of the realm of being substitutable. Now real world economics and the inefficiencies of a given market or a product or group of products are present everyday. The welfare state comment was not meant to be applied to the entire country or state just the given situation and people have raised pitchforks about one57 if you havent read in the news so it goes both ways. But I do agree that there are legitimate issues to contest from both sides and we know that will never change.

        • Thanks majorhints. And no problem. I understand how some of these conversations can go. I’m primarily frustrated at larger global economic trends that those with economic/political power can easily take advantage of, while the local, microeconomic effects of those same policies are blamed on the individual actors who have no choice but to operate within this system. I’m very sure it’s easy to say get up and move, like some have said, but aside from the economic benefits it may bring, which I don’t think has been shown, there are the considerations like (1) is their access to jobs where the person moves or will they be left worst off, (2) pyschological/sociological effects of leaving, for some, the only home they’ve known and leaving a community support system, or (3) will they have access to growth/learning opportunities going forward. I don’t think any one is saying to create a state where everyone is living off someone else’s dime. I think it’s seeking a more rationale economic/development/etc policy that doesn’t displace individuals from communities, allows them opportunity to grow, and generally live a modest/fair lifestyle – nothing extravagent. And for the poor, I am of the thinking at least that the environment shoud allow them to be poor with dignity – sure they won’t have access to luxuries but at least the basics that they can feel human and feel confident that they are moving towards self-sufficiency without being hassled for needing some help.

  • Anybody with a heartbeat can rent a two bedroom free market apartment for $700/mo in Allentown, PA. The bus from Port Authority to Allentown only takes about an hour and a half. There are many other inexpensive places to live within a similar reasonable commuting distance of NYC. The problem is that politicians love to make impossible promises in order to get elected and our spoiled voters believe it!

    • So, spend the equivalent of two working days per week traveling back and forth to work, not spending time with your children (because I really think your 1.5 hour estimate is dubious – with traffic, its more like 2+ hours) and when the kids have nutritional and/or academic issues, we’ll ask where the parents are as well.

      • daveinbedstuy

        Many very wealthy people do the same sort of commute from CT and there are hundreds of people who do it every morning from Philadelphia at about 2 hours + door to door. if they can do it, the poor can too

        • Wealthy people commute 2 hours from Connecticut? What area of CT is 2 hours away? New Haven? Because that’s not what I would call a wealthy area. The wealthy areas in CT are usually one hour from the City. Any place that has a transportation infrastructure leading into NYC will be expensive. Places like Allentown do not have that rapid transit infrastructure.
          Now as for Philadelphia – as a person who took the trip from Philadelphia to Northern/Central NJ & NYC for academic reasons, I am really trying to figure how you do that trip within 2 hours without taking an AMTRAK train. If you think any poor person can afford to take an AMTRAK from Philly to NYC , that costs at a minimum over 100 bucks roundtrip per day adding up to nearly $3,000 per month then that sort of defeats the purpose. If you talking about the bus – I’ll bring up the traffic again, it is not 2 hours door to door unless you are going during an off-peak time. If you are talking SEPTA + NJ Transit, I again bring up the costs of doing so + it definitely is not 2 hours.
          Just because you say it is so, doesn’t make it a reality.

          • daveinbedstuy

            Well, wealthier than her and a lot of other people making <$100,000 a year in NYC complaining they can't afford it.

            I know many people who make the trip from Philly to NYC EVERY DAY. Amtrak has monthly passes.

            Dealing with your type of logic is very frustrating. You too sound rasther self-entitled.

          • You know daveinbedstuy, maybe you should use the internet to do a little bit of research before you shoot off at the hip. You clearly know how to post on this forum very well. Google is as easy. $1,350 to travel between NYP and 30th Street in Philly is not affordable. That’s called rent for some people. Go to AMTRAK.com and see how much it costs. Clearly, you have to be making a significant amount of money for that to even be worth it – but then we wouldn’t be having this conversation because you fall in the “rich” category.
            What part of my logic is frustrating for you – the part that I am basing my response on fact or that I won’t let you get away with your bs without saying something. Finally, I sound rather “self-entitled” – aside from “self-entitled” being a redundant phrase, so I take you mean I sound “entitled” – exactly what do I believe I “deserve” the right to have according to you?
            Again, just because you write it doesn’t make it a reality.

          • daveinbedstuy

            FACT: it’s affordable for a lot of people. I know a lot who do it and I suspect many of them make less than $100,000 a year.

            BTW, “entitled” means you actually deserve it. “Self-entitled” is when you think you deserve something. Basic stuff there, Jay.

            Also, try not to be so long winded.

          • daveinbedstuy

            Besides, Philly and places further away were just examples. There are plenty of really cheap places in NJ, not far from NYC and easily accessible by NJ Transit.

            Try not to harp and nitpick.

          • You suspect it is affordable or you know? I like dealing with facts, not your suspicions. “Self-entitled” isn’t a phrase. It’s redundant. Entitlement already implies it is the subject who feels that way. But this is not a grammar lesson. This is not Twitter nor do I deal in soundbites, I’ll write as much as I need to get my point across.
            Point is the further you move, the more expensive tranportation becomes. Simple relationship. Hope that’s not too long winded for you.

          • daveinbedstuy

            You’re an idiot. Go back to curbed or Gothamist with the rest of people like you.

          • I see I’ve touched a nerve. Maybe you need some rest. Take care.
            I kept this one short so you can keep up.

          • daveinbedstuy

            Much better.

            The fact is I commuted weekly between Philly an NYC and there are a couple hundred people on that platform who do it every day. Just because you can’t google it doesn’t make you right about it. No, they don’t make $30,000.

          • Really, how old are you? From my general perspective reading this blog, it seems you are retired or some so I guess this keeps you company or whatever. My question to you is how much did you make? You’re telling poor people to move to Philly. I wasn’t talking about upper middle class people, you were. They can afford parts of the city. They have the option of commuting. This is a worthless conversation. I can see what/who majorhints was talking about.

        • Also, and I think most importantly, the “wealthy” by definition (at least modern definitions) can afford a hire outside help to take care of of their home life like nannies, cleaning persons, etc… So again, just because the wealthy can outsource the basic functions of homes life doesn’t mean the poor have the same ability. In early modern history, relatively wealthier people moved to the suburbs because they had the means to travel into the city to work and then leave. Poor people remained in the cities because transport costs were low. Wealthy people moving back into the city is a recent phenomena, but the same issues that face the poor (transport costs) are still present. So asking one to move further away still leaves the cost issue for poor people as described in my earlier post.

  • Plenty of middle class people make long commutes into the city daily. I recently met a court stenographer who makes the commute from Allentown every morning on the Bieber Bus. He told me most people sleep during the ride, cell phones aren’t allowed, and it’s a pleasant trip.

    New York City and San Francisco are not the only cities in the country. If NYC is too expensive for you, pack a suitcase and move. Rent Stabilized hoard-a-cheap-deal mentality prevades NYC and keeps hundreds of thousands of people from living comfortable normal lives.

    • I decided to do the math based on the information you provided in your posts, rather than outright saying it can or can’t be done. Assuming you work 20 days per month, a 40 trip book on beiber Bus will costs you (at a minimum) $520 bucks. I took the cheapest location which is Hellertown (near Allentown) – you can check their website. I added $100 for 20 round trip subway fares when you get to the City. That makes your transportation costs $620 per month. Add that to your $700 2 bedroom apartment and you are now paying $1,320 per month on rent and transportation. The woman in this story is paying $1,256 per month sincethis seems to be an obsession. Again, please explain where the savings are.

      • The savings are obvious. 99% of apartment hunters in NYC cannot find a nice two bedroom apartment in a safe neighborhood for anywhere near $1250/mo. Also, you shouldn’t necessarily add $100 bucks for subway fair since there are tens of thousands of jobs within short walking distance of Port Authority, but even if you do, it’s still a huge savings. Apparently the A-town to Port Authority bus often only takes and hour and twenty minutes. Look for yourself online. You can actually buy nice townhouses in Allentown for under 100k. It’s insanely cheap. The same houses cost millions in Park Slope.

        • I agree that for folks working minimum wage jobs, the commuting cost is too high. But for middle and upper class individuals, it makes sense. Poor people should move and find jobs elsewhere.

          Housing is cheap in much of the country. For example, North Dakota has a 3% unemployment rate and dirt cheap housing. Nobody deserves other tax payers to subsidize their housing in NYC when there are plenty of places to live where no subsidization is needed.

        • daveinbedstuy

          Jay will argue with you till the cows come home because he can google something that fits his view of the point you are making. He seems to miss the point most of the time.

    • The point is, it easy to tell someone to move but you know damn well you are asking them to leave a job. But then you say keep your job and move farther away, but you ignore transportation costs. It’s nice to prescribe something to a group of people without actually having to think it through since it does not affect your life one bit.

      • Yeah moving to Allentown PA seems like a stretch, But she could probably move to a more affordable part of Brooklyn like Bensonhurt,gravesend, marine park or canarsie? rents are lower and more affordable compared to some of the more “desirable” parts of Brooklyn.

      • My point is that it’s possible to commute outside NYC and get a lot more for your money than you do in NYC with transportation costs fully factored in. Sure it takes courage to pack a suitcase and make the move, but it’s very easy to do once you set your mind to it.

  • “Poor people should move and find jobs elsewhere.” Amazing. FML.