Rich Or Poor—Nobody Can Afford NYC’s Median Rents, Study Says

If we are all in the same boat, does it really matter whether you are at the beginning or at the end of the gentrification’s Domino Effect?

By Nathalie Nayman August 7, 2017

Just because you are rich, doesn’t mean you can afford to live in New York City. No one can—except for the top one percent and residents of the Great Kills.

This isn’t some op-ed whining of a millennial who has just been cut off the family trust fund—but a sobering gist from the recent study conducted by RentHop. The study consists of three simple numbers—median rent, median family income, and a hypothetical income which one needs in order to afford the median rent, all broken down by New York neighborhoods.

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So, what do residents of Lower East Side, Long Island and a-bit-rough-on-the-edges Mott Haven have in common? Most of them need to pay roughly hundred and thirty percent of their monthly income to afford the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in their area.

Isn’t that some kind of an ultimate equality? People in East New York are struggling to pay the rent—but so are those who live in Battery Par or Soho. Like, the median income for residents of Soho is $118,931. But in order to afford a two-bedroom in that area, they’d need 176,000. So, they are kinda $58,000 short.

Oh, those poor folks with $119,000 of annual income, you might remark sarcastically. Aw, they can’t afford one of those glassy condos with a multi-million price tag. Cry me a river.

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But here’s the thing. Every vile, beard-flaunting, privileged S.O.B. who just gentrified the socks out of your neighborhood had, in turn, been priced out of his or her natural habitat. That 119,000-earning dude from Soho might be struggling with this rent check – but his income would be more than enough to live lavishly in most Brooklyn neighborhoods. So, if, at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat, does it really matter whether you are at the beginning or at the end of the gentrification’s Domino Effect?

Poor or rich, some 90 percent of New Yorkers seem to be living in the wrong places, where they don’t belong—as long as “belonging” translates to “being able to afford,” that is. Shouldn’t folks from Soho just move to Bushwick, where they salaries match rents? And shouldn’t people from Bushwick just move to East New York? But then—where will all these guys from Canarsie go?

Of course, this isn’t what’s going to happen—because roommates. Cohabitation as a permanent lifestyle is NYC’s deep-rooted tradition. This is the only factor that allows us all to live wherever it is we are currently living. Or is it the reason why we are all living so miserably?

If you think of it, apartment-sharing practice might just be one of the driving forces of gentrification. The median household income in Williamsburg is $21,502. The income required to rent a two-bedroom is $99,960. You do the math—it takes five “real” household incomes combined to afford this apartment. And we all know how it works in practice. Five people in their twenties are shrimped into this two-bedroom, and even manage to have a good time.

Unfortunately, this model is hardly feasible for families—the ones who had been there all along.



Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

Nathalie is an international media trooper. After working as a journalist in Moscow, Nathalie participated in local politics and social movements in Cairo where she covered the protests and political upheaval of the Arab Spring. Nathalie is Agorafy's content manager. She produces and oversees unique and creative content for the Newsroom.

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