The Rent is Too Damn High

Last weekend, I went down to Jersey City to visit a cousin, who just moved into one of the new high rises on the Jersey side of the Hudson River. It’s the butt-end of the Statue of Liberty. These new buildings are fabulous. The apartments themselves are small, but they have amazing views and great common areas. You can reserve your own grill pits or garden areas on the roof. There are work areas for those who are still working from home. You can even reserve a room with a dining room table and kitchenette for the one time a year that extended family comes to visit. And then outside, the former check cashing stores and dollar stores have been turned in avocado toast brunch spots and beer gardens.

It would be very tempting to move into one of those places. Steve could see the window of his office from my cousin’s apartment. He would take a ferry ride to work and be in his office in 15 minutes. But apartments rental prices are insane right now. After the rent freeze during the pandemic was lifted, landlords tripled rent. The rent and fees for apartments like my cousin’s place is more than my mortgage and taxes for a house with a backyard. So, we’re staying.

5 thoughts on “The Rent is Too Damn High

  1. Just checked out a new apartment complex being built just up the road from me (well, up the road and around the corner). This is an inner-city suburban area – about 15 minutes bus ride to the centre city – with lots of hiking tracks (or as we say, bush-walks) close by, and plenty of nice-ish suburban eateries in walking distance. Outstanding public transport connections, and easy access to the motorways for the car-owners (most of Auckland, actually). Probably fairly nice views, at least on the upper stories (it’s a bit difficult to estimate when it’s just a hole in the ground)

    These are billed as ‘luxury’ apartments. They’re 3 bedroom (or 2 and a study), with an open plan dining/living room layout, and some balcony space. Nice fittings (as you’d expect in a top end place).

    Comparing to my 1936 bungalow (which is on the small side compared to modern houses) – but also 3 bedroom (with an added study), these apartments have considerably less floor space – and, of course, no outdoor yard at all.

    Price? You have to add an extra $500K to the value of my house to buy the cheapest (the apartments are listed at 2 million+ – no idea what the penthouse price would be)

    I just don’t get it. Why are apartments, which are smaller, and have fewer amenities, more expensive than stand-alone houses in the same area? You *can* buy cheaper apartments, but they are pinched, miserable little shoeboxes….

    At least here in Auckland, 2/3 of the value of your house is land value, with only 1/3 being the value of the house. Surely adding more apartments to a single site – has to result in cost savings?

    Really, I was looking for my Mum, who is in a fairly large house (even though designed to be flat access), on a ridiculously valuable piece of land – and town-planning changes may make it even more valuable in the near future. Discussing with her, *if* a developer comes and offers you 6 million – would you take it? And where would you want to go? She’s not keen on retirement villages – and would want to remain in the same general area – so looking for nice (large) apartments – which are not easy to find.


    1. Why do people want the $2 million all mod con apartments that are smaller than houses?

      1) temporary dwellers/second places, etc. I don’t know what the New Zealand foreign buyer situation is (or how it has been modified by COVID), but I think that plays a role in many desirable international cities (Vancouver, New York, and even Seattle)
      2) looking for no upkeep spaces
      3) views (of water and sky and not gardens and trees)
      4) urban amenities of restaurants, coffee shop at the doorstep
      5) downsizing for simplicity, no clutter, sleekness

      I’ve seen a retired couple make this transition, from 4000+square feet on an island to a beach front, urban 1500 or so square feet with limited land (but, it is literally on a beach)


      1. Yep – I can see the attraction in the inner-city. But this suburban location doesn’t really qualify for 1 & 4 (or at least no more than stand-alone houses would).

        The no upkeep and downsizing may be attractive – but really – paying a 500K premium for them seems nuts.
        [Also the upkeep of apartment blocks is a very sore issue in NZ — we’ve had nearly 25 years of ‘leaky apartment building’ crisis (where the building standards changed – and new builds were a high risk of water damage and and horrifically expensive remediation – the court battles are still ongoing) – everyone is very twitchy about maintenance in association with apartments]

        Views are only views until someone builds another block along the view channel – they’re not guaranteed. And they’d be nice-ish at best – but not outstanding here (distant view of water – across lots of houses)

        I’ve seen retired couples make downsizing transitions as well – but usually they want to take a nice chunk of cash out of the deal – in order to enjoy life, not be putting more cash into the smaller space.

        At least here in NZ – apartments of similar sizes to houses are being sold for the same or more than stand-alone houses in the same neighbourhood. It just seems bonkers!


      2. I think there’s also a generational shift going on, at least in the US, towards wanting a more blended lifestyle that incorporates some aspects of both city and suburban living. A lot of the benefits you describe are not the same if you live in an apartment near the train station in the suburbs as they are in the city, but they are more available than in the same suburb even a 10 minute drive away in single family home land. In my town, if you live close to the train station/center of town, you can do a lot of stuff without a car. Not nearly as much as in the city of course, but lots. Same town a 10 minute drive away and you really need your car to do much more than chat with your neighbors. Young people are definitely more enthusiastic about the living in smaller homes closer to downtown than larger, similarly priced houses further away.


  2. I do like views like those, expanses of sky and rooftops (and, in other places, water and mountains). It’s been a long time since my windows looked out on garden, trees, or street, which are pretty, but, lack the drama of the larger landscapes, especially the changing light in them.


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