If today’s rent bill is on your mind, there’s some small comfort to be had — indications are that New York’s white-hot rental market may finally be cooling off… very slightly. But with some Hell’s Kitchen residents being priced out of the neighborhood, is it too little, too late?

Hell's Kitchen Apartments
New York apartment rental prices keep on rising. Photo: Phil O’Brien

According to a report from rental platform Apartment List, rent prices are up 14 percent from June 2021 nationwide (and 43 percent in the city!!), but June’s month to month nationwide rent growth is the same as in May — a 1.3 percent increase.

A similar report from real estate platform Zumper listed NYC as up 1 percent from last month — ever-so-slightly lower than the national average growth. 

While prices are up, rents are growing more slowly than they did during last year’s meteoric “post” COVID-19 rise, says the study — from January to June of 2021, rents grew 8.8 percent, while this year they rose 5.4 percent. Additionally, the recently scarce supply of rental properties has finally started to rebound, with 5 percent vacancy (up from a low of 4.4 percent).

But our fair city still holds the record for the highest year-over-year rent growth, a fact that few New Yorkers would find cause to celebrate.

Despite being tossed a few crumbs of hope, most renters are still feeling the record prices, bidding wars and applicants attempting to outdo each other by offering bribes — including but not limited to free dinners for life, tickets to Jimmy Fallon, cheese baskets and designer duds.

Hell's Kitchen view Tommy Thompson
Hell’s Kitchen apartments old and new — the Special Clinton District preserves the low-rise buildings. Photo: Tommy Thompson

After the city’s Rent Guidelines Board voted to approve rental increases up to 3.25 percent (the largest hike in a decade) and the median Manhattan apartment price cracked $4k a month, even New Yorkers who hoped to get out of the rental game find themselves trapped in an endless loop ––  after all, with housing prices and a cost of living this high, what hope is there to save for a minimum 20 percent down payment plus six months liquidity?

According to the New York Times, 78 percent of the city’s low-income residents are rent burdened, spending over 30 percent of monthly income on housing alone. And in a city where applicants are usually required to make 40 times the monthly rent a year, renters applying for the median Manhattan one-bedroom would be rejected for making under $160K in a city where the average household income is $67,046. 

The squeeze is nothing new to Hell’s Kitcheners, many of whom reacted to the Rent Board increase and the failure of the Good Cause Eviction Law to pass. One former West Sider shared that she had been driven out a decade ago, when landlords “drove my affordable rent up to $2,100/month on a $50K salary. I moved to Queens— and now Queens is getting absurdly expensive, too.” On Twitter, Philip Miatkowski said: “Got notice from my landlord that my rent is going up over 2x and will be 28% higher than before COVID. Looks like I’ll be priced out of Hell’s Kitchen, a direct result of the Clinton Special District,” referencing the lack of new developments for the historic preservation of low-rise buildings from W41st Street through W59th Street west of 8th Avenue.

Hell’s Kitchen broker Bryan Ware noted that despite the study’s optimistic numbers, the local market was still as wild as ever. “I’ve noticed that rental prices are still high, and landlords are getting before COVID rents,” said Ware. “As far as demand, my last two rentals last week, I received over asking price, with over 40 renters coming to the open house. One renter even offered me above asking broker fee. I don’t see it slowing anytime soon,” he added.

Until there’s a significant slowdown on the runaway rent train, W42ST will continue to alert readers of local housing lotteries

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