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New York City Rent Really is Too Damn High

Mayor Bloomberg’s reign as New York City Mayor will end this year. Soon, New Yorkers will decide who our next Mayor will be. 

Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, one party we can all admit has a valid point is “The Rent is too Damn High” party. 

Yeah, that’s a real party. 

With their fairly-direct organization name, I don’t have to wonder what their platform will be. I don’t know much about this political party, nor am I promoting them. The face of this party is Jimmy McMillan, who SNL portrays quite aptly in this video:

”The Rent is too Damn High” Party has a point; how much are you paying for rent, my fellow New Yorker? 

I just signed another year lease for my apartment. Ask any New Yorker and I bet they’d all agree this is the most painful part of the year and the most bothersome aspect of living in New York City.

Of all my friends, only two own their apartment versus rent. This might not mean much if I only had four friends, but the point is I have a lot of friends who rent. We rent because we can’t afford to buy, and the way rent has hiked, we can barely afford that too.

I have lived in Manhattan for six and a half years. Since I moved into the city, my rent has increased by 42.5 percent. In the last three and a half years, I’ve lived in the same apartment, where I’ve just signed a lease that was 24 percent greater than the first lease I signed. 

You might think I’m crazy to pay such an obviously over-inflated rent, but this is the market in Manhattan. In comparing other apartments in my area, believe it or not, I’m actually still slightly below market. Plus, what’s the alternative? Moving to Brooklyn? 

The truth is I love my apartment and abhor moving. The landlords bank on that. They’ve got me right where they want me; coughing up the extra money while stewing over the absurdity of what I’m doing. 
For what I pay in rent in Manhattan, I can buy a house in New Jersey. But then I’d be living in New Jersey. Which I might do one day, but while I’m young and enjoying life, I refuse a long commute to the city I love.
That’s our Achilles heel: we love this city. That is why we New Yorkers are paying an arm and both legs to live here. That is why we’re paying ridiculous increases in rent. But really, enough is enough. How much more of this can we afford? For me, not much. 
Since I moved to Manhattan, unemployment has increased by 3.2 percent, yet rent keeps increasing. I’m no economist, but something seems off. I personally have been laid off twice in the last four years. When I told my landlords, there was no grace. Business is business. My rent was expected at the first of each month unless I want to subject my bank account to penalties.
Who is in our corner? Who is trying to fix this problem? This is major! Yes, I could move to a much cheaper area and commute an hour in and out of the city. 
Yes, I could take on three roommates. But these “solutions” would drastically change my life and diminish the joy I feel from living in Manhattan. Moreover, the problem wouldn’t go away. Rent keeps rising. New York draws dreamers. We need to keep on dreaming, but our biggest dream shouldn’t be an affordable apartment in Manhattan. 
Mayor Bloomberg is on his way out, but even if he wasn’t, I doubt he’d read this and think, “Sarah is right. I must fix the rent crisis ASAP.” Mayor Bloomberg has done great things for this city. He has been an advocate for teachers and increased their pay. He has initiated programs for a better, greener New York. He turned the city’s $6 billion deficit into a $3 billion surplus. He has initiated a program to help end the cycle of poverty. All noteworthy and great efforts. 
But what about the rent? Are we just going to let it skyrocket till only the super-rich can inhabit this island? I appreciate the Mayor looking out for my
health by banning my extra large sodas, but what about when I can’t afford health insurance because all my money has gone to my greedy landlord?
While I know no one will be playing the violin for me because I am overpaying rent in Manhattan, let me be clear that I am not rich. I just love this city and I want to stay in it. I’ve heard of rent-control and rent-stabilized apartments but, frankly, they might as well be urban legend. I’ve never seen one or known anyone who has lived in one. 
Landlords sneak increases little by little each year. What if there was a cap on maximum annual increase for long-term tenants? Or maybe it could be mandatory for the landlord to offer us multiple year leases instead of just the one year? I’m not suggesting the mayor should stop worrying about crime and poverty to help me live my single girl dream life in New York. I’m suggesting he do all of it. Look out for the little guy and the medium-sized one, too. Please. 
In my experience in this city, living in three different buildings in the span of six and a half  years, the landlords have all the power. Negotiating with them is a lose-lose situation. Worse than the state of the rent system is the feeling of helplessness; I’m sick of it. 
So this mayoral election, my vote is going to the candidate who not only addresses this issue, but comes up with a plan to rectify it. I’d hate to leave the city I love dearly because I’m not rich enough. 

Featured Image by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Kirby Sommers

    March 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Sarah, one of the reasons rents in Manhattan are so high is that people falsely believe “no fee” rentals are “no fee.” Most of these fab “no fee” finds have “hidden fees” tacked on to the rent. That “hidden fee” pays gives the landlord the money to pay the broker who showed you the apartment for five minutes. That “hidden fee” is NEVER removed from the rent. So if someone has paid that “hidden fee” (aka as “pay-as-you-go”) and wants to renew their lease for a second year — the landlord never says: “Gee you paid the broker’s fee last year so let me lower your rent to reflect the REAL rent you should pay.” NO. The landlord just continues to increase the rent based on the INFLATED rent and so now people are paying “hidden fees” forever. Which makes landlords happy and rich. It makes renters in the city poor and unhappy. Sometimes it even makes people give up on living in this amazing city because they just can’t afford it anymore. When I help someone find an apartment, I let them know about this “unknown truth in renting” and help them keep the rent as affordable as possible. Until everyone knows about this, the rents will just continue to rise. – Kirby Sommers, Founder / LandlordLinks.Net

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