Photo: Rodrigo Peredes/Flickr
It goes without saying that Manhattan is an expensive place to live (but we acknowledge we’re saying it anyway). In fact, recent analysis showed that Upper East Side property values alone are higher that the value of all property in several entire states.
But the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s latest report says that Manhattan isn’t even the least affordable place to live in New York — at least according to the mean hourly wage required to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the area. This puts New York City in step with a national trend: mid-sized metropolitan areas have shown the fastest rising rents.
According to the report, Nassau-Suffolk is the most expensive metropolitan area to live in New York state and the sixth highest in the nation, requiring an hourly wage of $33.04 to afford a two-bedroom at Fair Market Rent (FMR). Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Brooklyn (Kings County), and The Bronx also outranked Manhattan (New York County) by the NLIHC’s measure.
That said, Manhattanites should not think their rents are getting more reasonable. In fact, by the NLIHC’s measures, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan all required the same hourly wage of $28.48 to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
The idea of “affordability” can be complicated by measures and definitions.
The NLIHC reported that New York County (Manhattan) had the highest hourly mean wage in New York state — more than double the average at $45.22. And its monthly “affordable rent” (30 percent of income) was five times the state average at $2,352. High outlier incomes in Manhattan could make premium rents seem more within reach for typical residents.
The NLIHC’s data also comes with a caveat about the term “Fair Market Rent,” a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) description that is used broadly to determine tax rates and regulate subsidized housing. FMRs are an “estimate of what a family moving today can expect to pay for a modest rental home, not what current renters are paying on average.”
As such, FMRs are “gross rent estimates” and include “the shelter rent plus the cost of all tenant-paid utilities, except telephones, cable or satellite television service, and internet service.” The current definition used is the 40th percentile rent and is limited to data from from recent movers (within the past 15 months).
This suggests that variable utility costs by area and the pool of included rents could skew the study’s impression of relative affordability.