More people in cities across the country are renting, rather than buying, their households, including the well-educated, high-earning, and gainfully employed—at least some of whom probably even have a say in the matter. Welcome, rich folks, to the world of arbitrary expenses and frosty conflict and tubchens. Need a roommate?
The "good" news first: According to a report released Thursday by the NYU Furman Center, the median income of renters nationwide actually grew between 2012 and 2015, bucking a downward trend that began prior to the Great Recession. Additionally, the share of households considered rent burdened (defined as those spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent) and severely rent burdened (those spending more than 50 percent) dropped slightly over the same three year period.
This last part seems good, at least in a bare minimum sort of way that studies conducted immediately after a historic financial crisis should be. Still, hold off on the champagne for now.
"As renting a home becomes a more popular option among those with higher education levels and higher incomes, median renter income has also risen,” explained Sewin Chan, Associate Professor of Public Policy at NYU Wagner and Research Affiliate at the NYU Furman Center.
"The rise in higher-income renter households may mask the significant housing affordability challenges faced by lower-income renter households, who are both struggling to pay rent and have fewer affordable options if they need to move."
In other words, the average hovel-dweller isn't actually better off at all—just more likely to share a wall with a new breed of rent-loving jet set. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as a recent Real Estate Rich Person piece in the Times warned us about wealthy New Yorkers with commitment issues opting for "ultraluxury rentals," like this 20k/month loft in NoHo.
As for the slight drop in rent burdened households, the report notes that the share of those households was higher in 2015 than in 2006, and far higher than in earlier decades. Unsurprisingly, New York ranked near the top of the list of the "severely" rent burdened, with over 27 percent of the city's population spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent. Only Miami, Riverside, and Los Angeles were worse.
A slightly different affordability metric was no less concerning. Not only does New York have one of the lowest shares of "recently available rentals affordable to typical households in that metro," but the existing affordable units appear to be disappearing. Just 59.3% of the city's rental units were affordable for those making $60,850, the median income in 2015, compared to 68.1% in 2006. And for households making half the median income, just 13 percent of rentals were affordable—a figure unchanged since 2013.
In other news, Street Easy reported last month that median rents across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens reached an all-time high this summer.
You can read the full National Rental Housing Landscape report here.