Lured By Cheaper Housing And Jobs, The Middle Class Is Leaving NYC In Droves

New York City’s exorbitant housing costs are catching up to it as its population is leaving en mass, in search for affordability.

By Jeff Vasishta April 13, 2017

There was a time when people dreamed of living in New York. Now they can’t wait to get away. According to the Census Bureau, more people are leaving the New York region than any other major metropolitan area in the country. More than 1 million people moved out of the New York area to other parts of the country since 2010, a rate of 4.4 percent—the highest negative net migration rate among the nation’s large population centers.

The main factor forcing New Yorkers to flee is the cost of living. Housing is extortionate.

“Housing is the variable that’s changed the most,” Andrew Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College who studies city population patterns told Crain’s. “The cost of real estate may be starting to retard the city’s growth.”

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The median house value in the city jumped from $300,000 in 1999 to nearly $500,000 in 2015, said Beveridge, while real median household income declined from $54,633 to $53,654. One-third of the city’s renters pay more than half their monthly income for their apartment, he added. Figures which explain why Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top priority is creating and preserving affordable housing.

With an improving economy people are looking to move elsewhere in the country where housing is cheaper and where there are new jobs. Also, retirees are leaving the brutal NY winters behind and moving to warmer climates. However, the influx of immigrants, doing service sector jobs, keeps to NY population inching upwards and means the city remains on track to reach 9 million residents by 2040.

Related: Want To Own Your Own Private Island And Commute To NYC? Here’s How

“The healthy mix of people coming and going is what has helped New York grow to be an economically strong, global city,” a spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning said. While that may be true, if the middle class is leaving and poorly skilled labor is arriving, a chasm in the demographic make up would only add fuel to the consensus that New York is becoming a city of the haves and have not’s.

This would appear to be born out residents flocking to cheaper housing in the outer boroughs. Data show that the Bronx and Brooklyn have grown the fastest since 2010, with population increasing by 5.1 percent and 5 percent, respectively. The Bronx now has 1.46 million residents—not far from its all-time high of 1.47 million in 1970. Many others, though are leaving permanently to Florida, The Carolinas, the Rust Belt Cities and Texas.

“The historical trend is that out-migration grows when the economy is getting better,” said Empire Center for Public Policy research director E.J. McMahon. “As the economy gets better, there are more jobs outside the region and by the same token . . . more people to buy your house if you’re a baby boomer looking to move to Boca Raton or Myrtle Beach.”

New York’s ethnic minorities have been leaving in their droves in recent years and they have other northern cities where the cost of living is becoming too high, moving back down south, reversing the exodus that happened a hundred years ago.

“When you leave metropolitan cities like New York, you want to come down to some bedroom community where you don’t have to worry about much,” Linda Sharpe Haywood, a former Bronx resident who moved to Palm Coast, Florida with her family, says, citing the area’s diverse cultural neighborhoods as a major draw. “You’re free to live where you can afford to live,” she adds.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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