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They save and leave the city: how rising rental prices turned the lives of New Yorkers upside down


Nadezhda Verbitskaya

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Rent in New York is beyond comprehension. And this year it reached an all-time high level. In June, the average asking rent in the city reached $3, up 500% from last year, reports CNBC.

Manhattan now has the highest median rent at $4. Those who would rather rent in the city but don't want to pay astronomical prices are looking to Brooklyn and Queens. But this leads to an increase in rental prices there. In June, the median asking rent in Brooklyn was $100 a month, and in Queens it was $3.

In both Brooklyn and Manhattan, tenants put more than 50% of their salary into rent, and more than 40% in Queens. This far exceeds the rule of thumb that rent should not exceed 30% of your income.

On the subject: Renting a Home in New York: Tenant Rights Everyone Should Know

Such high rental prices came as a shock to New Yorkers who moved here during the pandemic and those who lived here long before. Here are three personal stories of the townspeople.

Rent goes up and no negotiation

At the height of the pandemic, tenants had the right to negotiate prices with owners. Now, with many leases signed during the pandemic subject to renewal, landlords are once again in control.

Casey Cleary, 39, and her husband have lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side since 2015. And during the pandemic, their rent was reduced by $450, bringing it to $2000. However, the landlord recently informed them that their rent would now go up by $700.

“When we received the letter with the information about the rent increase, we wanted to talk to the landlord and discuss the option. We wrote him a letter asking if we can agree and if there is room for maneuver, - said Casey. - They wrote back in 15 minutes, saying a firm "no" to our attempt to bargain. Like, they already gave us the preferred rate in the form of a raise of $700. So they were not prepared to negotiate at all.”

The couple considered signing a lease elsewhere, but Casey just lost her job. So they decided to move to Airbnb until she gets a job.

“For a whole week I was just broken”

Ernestine Siu, 23, moved to the East Village in January 2021 and shared an apartment with a roommate when prices were low due to the pandemic.

“Our rent has been heavily reduced,” she says. “In addition, our apartment has a built-in washer and dryer, a perk you don’t often find in New York.”

Sioux's apartment rent has almost doubled this year, from $2 to $250.

“As soon as we received the renewal lease with the new price in the mail, we immediately knew we weren't going to pay that much,” she says.

She and her roommate started looking for a new home and were shocked at what they found.

“For a whole week, I felt broken looking at prices,” she says. “One day I called my mother and said: “Mom, I feel like a failure. I can't even afford to live in this city."

After traveling three or four places, they ended up in Brooklyn, in an apartment that cost $4 a month.

“I decided I just needed to change my lifestyle a bit and save where I can,” Siu says.

“I will send my things to the warehouse and leave here”

For some tenants, however, the rent increase was enough to force them out of the city.

Thelma Rose Annan, 32, moved into her Manhattan apartment in 2020. Then it cost $1. In 882, the rent has increased to $2021, and this year to $2.

“I refreshed the email page several times because I thought it was a mistake. I looked at the number and just started laughing,” she says. I had to repeat it out loud because it was such a ridiculous number. I thought, "This just can't be."

Although she is grateful for the 2 years she spent in the city, Thelma does not want to overpay anymore.

“I'm going to put my things in storage and go to Europe. I will work remotely from there,” she says. “And I hope that the situation with housing in New York will calm down.”

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