While apartment rents have dropped in New York City since the pandemic began, essential workers haven’t significantly benefited from them, according to a new report from the real estate website StreetEasy.

The biggest rent drops happened in areas where the majority of essential workers don’t live but higher income earners do, such as Manhattan and waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. Though the study found that more apartments affordable to low-wage workers also became available, those listings still make up a tiny portion of available rentals on StreetEasy.

“That really highlights the tale-of-two-cities narrative, where we're seeing unequal rents falling across the city,” Nancy Wu, an economist at StreetEasy, told Gothamist/WNYC. “There's been some help to rent affordability in terms of making more apartments available, but it's not nearly enough to offset the rent burden that many essential workers face.”

StreetEasy based its definition of “essential workers” on a study by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who included nurses, grocery clerks, and public transit employees, among others. The majority are immigrants, people of color, and women, who predominantly reside in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. There are about a million of them in the city, earning an average of $55,973 a year—which, by federal guidelines, means they can afford an apartment with a monthly rent of $1,400, or 30% of their income.

Nevin Muni, 53, is one of many rent-burdened frontline workers. A stockroom associate at T.J. Maxx, Muni shares a one-bedroom apartment in Elmhurst with her disabled husband. They spend around 50% percent of their household income on rent, something that hasn’t changed during the pandemic. She said they try to save as much as possible by not eating out, cutting their own hair and handwashing some of their clothing.

“We economize for everything to pay our rent,” Muni said.

The number of homes listed on StreetEasy that are affordable to essential workers increased by 3,561, or 44%, between 2019 and 2020. Still, those apartments made up just 4.1% of the total listings on the website. Additionally, in some neighborhoods where essential workers live, such as Sheepshead Bay and Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, the number of affordable housing units actually decreased.

Barika Williams, executive director at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, said the report reflected “harsh truths” about different rental markets in the city amid the pandemic.

“We've got this luxury high cost rental market where one thing is happening and rents are dropping,” she said. “And then we've got pretty much the rest of the city, where the bulk of our essential workers live, where rents haven't really dropped.”