As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March, Bianca Rosario became one of hundreds of thousands of people in New York City to suddenly be out of a job.
The 24-year-old filmmaker and producer was living in a Bed-Stuy two-bedroom with a roommate, who also lost her job a few weeks later. When their lease ended, in early April, the roommate moved back home, and Rosario was able to negotiate a month-to-month lease with the landlord.
But she soon realized she needed a cheaper alternative to paying the full $2,400 a month rent by herself. Hoping to stay in New York City for at least a few more months, Rosario began hunting for more affordable short-term housing.
She had options. With the pandemic driving people out of the city for all manner of reasons — school closings, job losses, greener pastures elsewhere — the short-term rental market has been more flush than ever. The number of StreetEasy listings offering month-to-month leases rose by over 70 percent in April compared to 2019. And, as of the week ending on June 28, short-term rental listings on the site are up 35 percent from what they were at the same time last year.
A recent analysis conducted by the listings site Renthop suggests that the city is also seeing a record number of sublet listings: The total in May rose more than 110 percent over April’s numbers, especially in neighborhoods like Chelsea, Williamsburg, and Astoria. These short-term rentals can be found in a wide range of buildings including a Waverly Place prewar in Greenwich Village, the 2014-built 250N10 in Williamsburg, and various Airbnbs in disguise.
Rosario landed on a four-story Crown Heights building managed by the co-living company Common, which had planned to end its contract with the building two months later and allowed her to rent a room there in the interim. “To me, that was perfect because I wanted the shortest lease possible,” says Rosario.
She now pays $1,000 a month to live in a furnished five-bedroom unit, where she’s currently one of only two occupants. The rent includes all utilities, weekly cleaning services, and free laundry — detergent provided. Rosario’s lease expires on July 31, after which she hopes to retreat to the Dominican Republic — where she grew up — for a while.
Common, which had three-month leases even before the pandemic, is now offering even shorter leases to renters.
“We’ve been providing month-to-month leases for individuals who were looking to move in — or were looking to renew their term — just given the uncertainty that’s happening,” says Eric Rodriguez, vice president of operations. They’re also allowing renters to move in without putting down a security deposit by partnering with the financial technology company Obligo, which provides a pre-authorization service that requires tenants to pay only if there’s damage to the property. Other co-living upstarts, like Outpost, are offering similar perks and flexible terms.
For Common, at least, the demand for flexibility has begun cooling down. After a surge of three-month leases in March and April — a 25 percent increase over the same time last year — the number of May and June leases has begun to normalize, with the vast majority of contracts being signed for six months or longer.