Hell’s Kitchen renters now find themselves at a pricing doomsday. Just two weeks after real estate reports outlined a slight slowdown in rental prices nationwide, New York has answered back with a staggering, history-making statistic — the average Manhattan apartment now costs a cool $5K a month, with West Side rentals not far behind.
June’s report from Miller Samuel reveals West Side average rentals climbed to $4,257 a month as borough-wide rentals hit the new unwelcome milestone — with Hudson Yards now number one in pricey pads, although these statistics are based on sale records.
Vacancy rates are below 5 percent (officially considered a housing emergency by the city), with many landlords using the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act (HSTPA) of 2019 to leave units vacant and unlisted, rather than price them within increase restrictions. The result is a squeeze felt by New Yorkers across neighborhoods — in a city where 75 percent of residents rent, many are dreading upcoming lease negotiations.
“It’s insane,” said Catie Savage, who has lived in the same Hell’s Kitchen one-bedroom apartment for over seven years. “When I first moved in, my rent was $2,300. I had a few years without an increase, then it went to $2,350, then $2,400, and right before the pandemic it was supposed to go up to $2,450.” During the pandemic, she was able to negotiate to stay at $2,400, and when several units sat empty and a newly renovated one-bedroom was listed for $1,800, she was able to negotiate back to her original $2,300. But as the city reopened and the market recovered, Savage spotted a troubling trend.
“They listed a studio downstairs at $2,250 — only $50 less than my one bedroom,” she said. “And when I asked whether this meant my rent would go up at my next lease renewal in April, I was told ‘we can’t tell you what the market will be next year.’”
Now, she faces an uncertain future, attempting to navigate a flawed affordable housing lottery system where “your AMI (area median income) is calculated by your gross income, which does not take into effect the astronomical costs of health insurance and taxes that make what you actually earn much lower,” she said. And for the few systems that do take net income into consideration, “once I put the net estimate in, it was deemed that I don’t make enough money to qualify.”
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The seesaw of market rate rents and unattainable lottery units is becoming more and more familiar to many New Yorkers as inflation continues to climb and renters find their hard-earned wages don’t cut it in this high-priced era. The Good Cause Eviction Bill — designed to protect tenants from outsized increases and undue eviction and recently struck down by Albany courts — is being re-proposed for immediate legislation by over 100 elected officials and advocacy groups statewide.
In a joint statement made Thursday by Housing Justice for All and supportive representatives, the group argued for immediate statewide action: “As organizations and local elected officials representing hundreds of thousands of tenants across the State, we implore the State Legislature to not abdicate their responsibility to the 1.6 million rental households across the State of New York. While the Legislature failed to pass Good Cause Eviction during the 2022 regularly scheduled session, it is never too late to do the right thing. We urge you to call a special session and pass statewide Good Cause Eviction without delay.”
For Savage, who previously worked a full-time fashion industry job and is now self-employed as she pursues a career change to public service, the bargain is clear: “I’m killing my savings to stay here. It’s either go back to my previous job and make money to afford the place I live, or leave New York City because it does not pay to try and do good and live in New York City — it’s just not possible.”