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NYC’s affordability crisis continues to deepen, report shows

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Unsurprisingly, rents have continued to climb

New York City’s lack of affordability is steadily climbing for most families.
Max Touhey

New data gives a snapshot of the city’s deepening affordability crisis as New Yorkers strain under rising rents and costs of living.

A new digital “Affordability index” published by Comptroller Scott Stringer explores how the climbing costs of housing, transportation, healthcare, and other necessities put a very real squeeze on New York City households, leaving many city denizens with dwindling savings.

“New York City’s affordability crisis impacts every New Yorker and every community—and the numbers laid out in our affordability index shine a light on this worsening crisis,” says Stringer. “Over the last decade, the lack of affordable housing and the soaring cost of everything from child care to basic everyday necessities have ravaged New Yorkers’ bank accounts, and now, these pressures are pushing people out.”

The index, which is updated annually to monitor the city’s economic struggles, shows that between 2005 and 2017, typical household incomes increased by just 1.9 percent per year for single adults, and 3 percent or more for other households. In 2005, the average single adult cleared 43 percent of their income after expenses, but that figure was only 15 percent in 2017—the biggest dip over the period, with expenses averaging at $3,669 monthly for those earning $4,317 per month on average.

Single parents face a much greater struggle. On average, basic expenses for these households actually exceeded incomes by 26 percent in 2017. That’s a major jump from 20 percent in 2006, but did not exceed the staggering 40 percent income deficit recorded in 2012, according to the index. Public benefits likely stepped in to shrink that shortfall, but either way the situation is alarming for single parents trying to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, married families—those with two children, and those without children—fared markedly better, with the former clearing 18 percent of income after essentials and the latter reaching 38 percent in 2017; both rates were relatively the same in 2005.

Housing was a different animal as rents continue a steady march skyward. The impacts of New York’s steep housing costs varied across households with rent swallowing up 37 percent of the average single adult’s earnings; that figure was 47 percent for single parents and 26 percent for married couples.

Overall, median rents in New York City increased on average by 4 percent per year, which resulted in $600 higher median rents for one- and two-bedroom apartments—a 61 percent and 53 percent rent hike between 2005 and 2017, respectively.

The cost of food and taxes have both remained relatively stable, but healthcare and childcare saw more dramatic rises, with childcare rapidly climbing in the early years of the study but mostly leveling off toward the end of the study period. Still, childcare is a long way off from being affordable to many, and in May Stringer released a plan toward achieving that goal.

“We need to meet this growing crisis with the urgency it demands and do everything in our power to keep New York City an aspirational city for our next generation,” said Stringer.

Explore the Affordability Index’s data here.