Priced Out of New York City

This story of a woman who has to leave New York City, because she can’t find affordable housing is bumming me out this morning. She’s a middle aged, freelance creative type, who has nested in Park Slope for 30 years. She’s deeply in debt and depressed. The city has gotten more expensive, and she’s in a field that favors the young. Ageism and housing have conspired against her.


30 thoughts on “Priced Out of New York City

  1. What about Bed-Stuy? A friend who’s a secretary in our office owns a house with two accessory apartments, each about $1000 a month. This woman is being priced out of Park Slope, maybe, but not out of New York City or even Brooklyn.

    Now if her income has fallen, that’s a separate problem.

  2. New York City is expensive? And it’s hard to make a living as a freelance documentary film producer? I’m shocked!

  3. I used to be “well too bad for you” about housing but having lived for three years now in a city with astronomical prices, I’ve changed my opinion. And that’s not because of my own situation – we were in the market during the increase so have not been affected by affordability directly.

    This is Vancouver by the way.

    How it HAS affected us and affects the city is a what I’ve recently termed demographic homelessness. We do of course have a big homeless problem being a port city with a mild climate. Lots of drug misuse – that’s not the homeless I am talking about.

    The homeless I am talking about is middle class families. I used to think, “well, just commute from the ‘burbs”. And I didn’t realize the impact of a dramatic shift in demographics in the city itself. We’re rapidly ending up as a city with:

    – super wealthy Europeans, Americans & Asians who own homes that they visit a few times a year but otherwise are empty
    – single people in their 20’s living in basement suites and rental condos
    – semi retired and retired who rode up the wave and are in their original homes
    – professional couples who are choosing to not have kids partly because they can’t find anything larger than a one bedroom that they can afford

    Short term impact? Blocks in neighborhoods that are like ghost towns with few people living in them. Independent businesses going under because there aren’t enough people living in the neighborhoods to support them. Missing families – neighborhoods that used to have kids playing, etc. are now empty and quiet.

    Long term impact – we’ll have to see.

    I don’t know if it’s worth our cities ending up like holiday towns like Venice with lots of vacation homes, a few young people and that’s about it. No one really living there and building a life there.

    1. I was just going to mention Venice. My partner was born there, and he says you can currently fit all the ‘young’ people (under 35) who actually live there in one piazza.

      1. We remember almost a hunger for children when we traveled in Venice with our 10 month old — he was a center of attraction (as was the 4 year old). They are racially ambiguous, and can look Italian at times, and when we took them out, especially in the evening, when the daytrippers had left the city, people would cluster around them, workers in the cafes, people in the cafes.

        We felt the same way with our little guy, now 9, when traveling in Tokyo (as I said, it’s difficult to identify their race by glancing).

        Vancouver & Tokyo & NYC are different from Venice (since they are huge and functioning metropolitan centers), but, emptying out a city of a broad demographic is going to have a huge effect on the culture. Especially true when it’s literal emptying out in the form of absentee owners who drive up prices but contribute nothing to the environment of a place (which is becoming an issue in NYC, too, from what I hear).

      2. It must be like some kind of futuristic post-apocalptic movie scenario – where did all the families go? And for Italy, a country that is super welcoming to all ages and a lover of children and families, it must be even more difficult.

    2. I have some relatives who used to commute in from the Vancouver burbs, but as Vancouver grew, the commute became absolutely nightmarish–it practically doubled while they stayed in the same place.

      1. They eventually moved into Vancouver proper and bought way less house for the same money, but trimmed the commute way down.

  4. “a city with:

    – super wealthy Europeans, Americans & Asians who own homes that they visit a few times a year but otherwise are empty”

    Parts of Manhattan are in some danger of going that way, but what we consider the nice parts (Upper East Side and Upper West Side) are protected because most of the buildings are co-ops, which will generally not permit purchases by people who don’t intend to live there. (Not to mention, a lot of them would look askance at Russian oligarchs, though that kind of discrimination may not be totally legal.)

    1. It caught Vancouver by surprise. It’s like the city version of Sally Field – “they like me, they really like me”. All excited about being a “world class city” because wealthy people were/are buying up real estate.

      Meanwhile, what made it a great place to live is disappearing.

      I like the idea of having a city adopt “co-op rules” for residential real estate. It’s not going to be owner-occupied? Or not have someone living long term? Well, then, you’re out of luck. A city can’t effectively function as a bedroom community for non-residents.

      1. Now, that garbling was iPad related, though, I guess ultimately it is the editor (me) who is to blame.

    2. I wonder how long Manhattan’s co-op system will last. All the new buildings are condos — and I can’t remember if there were rule changes that permitted the new ownership structure, or if the co-op system developed long ago was just an anachronism.

      I think someone might argue that co-ops are different from a city adopting “co-op” rules, because co-ops are voluntary, but I suspect that co-op rules can’t really survive the free market, but that older buildings are grandfathered in (kind of like old-time owners who can stay in their houses in Vancouver or elsewhere because they bought before the market was hot).

      1. Certainly collective self-governance by organic communities is despised by both right and left today, so co-ops are contrary to the temper of the times. But anachronisms sometimes survive a long time.

      2. Are co-op rules disliked by the left? I’m not sure fow one would translate the rules into new construction, thought here might be some agreement, say, on absentee owners. Though of course, one can always think of exceptin, say, someone who owns, but lives elsewhere because they got married, or are ill.

      3. There are left wing people who dislike them. Co-ops have a lot of advantages, but they are also vehicles for keeping the wrong sort of people out of your building; there’s no way to prove why a board is turning people down. They tend to demand a lot more assets than condo boards, they’re much more finicky than banks about sources of income, and they may not like people in entertainment or whatever (Madonna was famously turned down by one tony building, even though there’s no question she can make the maintenance).

  5. My uncle and aunt were NYC snobs, couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Then my aunt got accepted to OSU for grad school (yes, in her late 40s). They lived in Columbus for years and just retired to Vermont (well, my aunt still works; my uncle had been a nurse and he retired). They grew to like Columbus, and they loooooove Vermont. Despite the weather. I love NYC and miss it a lot (I was a Park Sloper till 1999), but there are other places in the world to live.

    1. Yes–there are other places to live.

      People in certain parts of the country often just can’t wrap their minds around the fact that there is life outside NYC and CA.

      I’m glad your aunt and uncle successfully made the transition!

      1. I’ve lived in lots of cities, and the only one I still can’t love is Los Angeles. But, I think I’m wrong about even that one. I think that’s the only city where I didn’t construct a life for myself that had the features I wanted. I think one can, in most cities, by making reasonable compromises. Friends and family, though, are probably not replaceable (which is one of the things that people are thinking of when they say they can’t imagine living anywhere else).

      2. For the record, though, I refuse to endorse St. Louis as a place to live. A friend just came back from a conference there with horror stories that reminded me of the time my husband and I visited.

      3. I find the same attitude when I visit my family in Ohio. The job market stinks there but they can’t imagine going somewhere else.

      4. Friend in Italy said the same thing about Italy — that people talk about the “quality of life” and aren’t willing to make changes.

  6. What’s wrong with St. Louis? I’ve worked some long-term jobs there and LOVED it. (granted, some of the hell-holes I’ve lived in have left me with low expectations, but still). I’ve got lots of recommendations on where to go and what to do in St. Louis (and the bonus is—much cheaper than Chicago!) I’d live there in a heartbeat if I thought I had a snowball’s chance in hell of being able to transfer my ticket (union lingo for changing official residency; St. Louis isn’t keen on accepting outsiders). It has a similar cost of living but much, much better cultural amenities than where I am. And the METRA is fantastic! If you lived in central Illinois, you’d think of STL as “civilization”.

  7. I find the same attitude when I visit my family in Ohio. The job market stinks there but they can’t imagine going somewhere else.

    Or perhaps its the logistics and resources necessary to make a move from NowhereDumpville to SomeplaceWithanEconomyville that are daunting. Everyone I know daydreams throughout the day of living elsewhere, but when a feasible moving plan to someplace demonstrably better includes “living in my car and taking showers at the Y”….well, it just becomes easier to tough it out and wait for retirement (especially if you have worries about how Children and Family Services may take the “living out of the car” part). It’s very easy for well-heeled folks who’ve had some success in Somewhereville to ease back, downscale, sell off the home, and move to the slow lane. Just the home sale will give them enough to literally live like kings and queens in Nowhereville. It doesn’t operate that way for denizens of Nowhereville.

    They wait for retirement, then put their house on the market. If they’re lucky, a young family will buy it up. If they’re not so lucky, a slumlord company will buy it up. The Rust Belt is going from homeownership fto slumlordship, which exacerbates the free-fall of the tax base, which directly impacts the schools (and feeds back into the whole free-fall thing).

    Trust—it’s not the lack of imagination that keeps people put. It’s a lack of resources to tough out the logistics of moving. It doesn’t become feasible until the pension (read: guaranteed income, plus benefits accessible to older folks, like government subsidized housing that isn’t a slum) kicks in.

    (and yes, that’ll change for Generation Y, most of whom don’t have pensions. Unless cities wise up and require set-asides for working class housing, we’re going to be in for some real interesting times. Praise God(dess) and pass the ammunition!)

  8. London also has those blocks and blocks of empty real estate apparently owned by wealthy Russians. Come to think of it, it does have kind of a post-apocalyptic feel as you walk through empty block after empty block. A friend of mine thought about buying an apartment in one of those neighborhoods but decided not to because it would be so weird not to have any neighbors and because she found it creepy coming home on the tube at night. So it becomes self-reinforcing. Empty neighborhoods are only appealing to those who don’t plan on being there that much. (I have seen reviews of places on airbnb where renters mention how odd it is to be the only family in the building, etc.)

  9. re: St. Louis. I follow a freelance writer named Sarah Kendizor, who is based out of St. Louis. She writes a lot about low-income workers in St. Louis. Lubiddo, you should check her out.

  10. My friends are starting to move out of our suburban town. The taxes have increased to the point it makes no sense to remain in town once your children are no longer attending local schools. As taxes have increased, the trend has accelerated. People used to stay in town longer. Now some are putting their houses on the market in their children’s senior year.

    If New York gets too expensive for creative types, those creative types will move elsewhere. And the cycle begins anew. There was a time when New York City had abandoned buildings. A relative recently had to move out of the city. Very similar story to the wync piece. She moved to a less expensive city, and is being creative there.

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