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State of the City 2020

State of Renters and Their Homes

When the pandemic began, half of all New York City renters paid 30 percent or more of their income towards rent. Since the 2008 recession, median rent grew at a higher rate than median renter income, though the gap has narrowed since 2015. By next year, we will have data on whether these trends continued during the pandemic. Though the data on rents made available by the Census were only available through 2019, the median asking rent for newly leased units listed on StreetEasy was available through 2020. According to that data, most of the city, especially Manhattan, experienced a decrease in asking rents, though neighborhoods furthest from Manhattan did experience an increase in asking rents. Similar to foreclosure filings, the number of eviction filings were well below historical averages. 

Most of the data used in this section only go through 2019 and therefore do not include the impact of COVID-19. Only the figures on asking rent, housing code violations, and eviction filings include data through 2020. 

In New York City, the share of households who rented their home was nearly twice the national rate. Between 2009 and 2019, the rental share increased citywide at a growth rate that was comparable to the nationwide trend.

The renter household rate in New York City increased by 1.7 percentage points between 2009 and 2019 (from 66.4 percent to 68.1 percent). Nationally, the share of households who rented their home increased by 1.8 percentage points over this same time period (to a national rate of 35.9%). Among the boroughs, rental rates in 2019 were highest in the Bronx (81.1%), followed by Manhattan (76.7%), Brooklyn (70.2%), Queens (55.9%), and Staten Island (34.3%). Between 2009 and 2019, rental rates increased across all boroughs, but the increase was greatest in Staten Island, where the share of households who rented their home rose by 3.5 percentage points. 

Bar graph comparing the rental share by borough in New York City from 2009 to 2019.

Rents varied across the city in 2019, with the lowest rents in the Bronx and the highest rents in Manhattan.

Gross rent—or the rent specified in a lease plus the estimated monthly electricity and heating costs paid by the tenant—provides insight into housing and utility costs for renters across the city. In 2019, Manhattan remained the most expensive borough for all unit sizes (median gross rent $1,783), followed by Queens ($1,669), Brooklyn ($1,508), Staten Island ($1,321), and the Bronx ($1,252). Across the city, the median gross rent for all rental units was $1,508. Between 2009 and 2019, real rents (2019$) rose across New York City by 16.3 percent ($211 growth). The increase in real rents (2019$) over the period varied substantially by borough: rents increased by 23.6 percent ($288) in Brooklyn, 17.1 percent ($244) in Queens, 14.2 percent ($222) in Manhattan, 13.2 percent ($146) in the Bronx, and just 0.2 percent ($3) in Staten Island.

Bar graph comparing the median gross rent by borough in New York City from 2009 to 2019.

Median asking rents decreased in 2020 in most areas across the city, but areas farther from Manhattan saw increases.

Citywide, the median asking rent according to listing data provided by StreetEasy decreased 6 percent from 2019 to $2,600. Manhattan had the highest median asking rent, $2,950, but also the largest decline: nearly 12 percent. The median asking rent in Brooklyn declined 5 percent to $2,500, and in Queens it declined 3 percent to $2,174. In the Bronx, the median asking rent remained essentially unchanged at $1,900, and in Staten Island, it actually increased 1 percent to $1,950. Out of 59 community districts, 51 experienced some decrease in median asking rent. The community district with the largest decrease in median asking rent (Stuyvesant Town/Turtle Bay at -16%), and all but one of the community districts that experienced a 10 percent or greater decrease, were in Manhattan. Additionally, Tottenville/Great Kills in Staten Island experienced an increase of 11 percent, and 8 community districts (14%) experienced an increase of 1 percent or more. 

Map showing the change in median asking rent by community district in New York City from 2019 to 2020.

The real income (2019$) of the city’s median renter household increased by 21.3 percent between 2009 and 2019. 

In 2019, the median income of a renter household in New York City was $55,695, an increase of $9,777 (21.3%) from 2009, after controlling for inflation. By borough, the median income for renter households in 2019 remained highest in Manhattan ($80,292), followed by Queens ($61,342), Brooklyn ($53,621), Staten Island ($49,841), and the Bronx ($34,487). Real household income for renter households increased across all boroughs between 2009 and 2019. The growth was largest in Brooklyn, where the median real renter household income rose by $13,878 (34.9%). The increase in median renter household income over the period exceeded the city-wide rate in two other boroughs: Manhattan (+23.5%, $15,283) and Staten Island (+24.4%, $9,763). In Queens (+16.6%, $8,730) and the Bronx (+6.3%, $2,042), the growth was below the city-wide rate.

Bar graph comparing the median renter income by borough in New York City from 2009 to 2019.

The gap between the median renter household income and the median rent narrowed in 2019, continuing a trend that began in 2015.

In each year since 2015, the median income for renter households in New York City grew at a greater rate than the median rent. Between 2018 and 2019, median renter household income increased by 7.2 percent while median rent rose by 1.7 percent. However, during the longer-term period between 2007 through 2019, the increase in median rent was larger than the increase in median income, due to the large decline in real renter incomes between 2008 and 2011. Increasing renter incomes could reflect wage growth among residents, but it could also reflect a change in the composition of the renter population, with more affluent households renting instead of purchasing homes. 

Line graph showing in the index of real median gross rent and real median renter household income in New York City, indexed to 100 in 2007.

The share of New York households that were moderately rent burdened increased modestly between 2009 and 2019, while the share that were severely rent burdened decreased. 

Citywide, the share of renter households that were severely rent burdened (paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent) declined by 1.3 percentage points between 2009 and 2019, from 27.5 percent to 26.2 percent. The severely rent burdened rate fell across all income categories over the period, with the largest decline among low-income households (51-80% HUD AMI) at -1.3 percentage points (from 10.3% in 2009 to 9.0% in 2019). However, the severely rent burdened rate remains very high for extremely-low-income renters (<= 30% HUD AMI) at 69.0 percent. 

The share of renter households citywide that were moderately rent burdened (paying between 30 and 50 percent of their income on rent) grew by 0.5 percentage points between 2009 and 2019, from 23.5 percent to 24 percent. The moderately rent burdened rate increased across households in all income categories between 2009 and 2019. However, the growth in the rate over the period was highest among moderate (81-120% HUD AMI) and middle (121-165% HUD AMI) income renters, with 3.0 and 3.2 percentage point increases respectively. 

Bar graphs comparing the rent-burdened share by income in New York City from 2009 to 2019.

Housing code violations in New York City in 2020 decreased dramatically, falling to the lowest rate since 2005. 

In 2020, there were 210.7 housing code violations issued per 1,000 privately-owned rental units, a decrease of 32 percent from 2019. Of those violations, 66.3 violations per 1,000 privately-owned rental units (about 32% of the total violations) were serious housing code violations. Though serious violations decreased from 2019 to 2020, the rate of decline (22.4%) was slower than the rate of decline for total housing code violations (31.5%). The drop in 2020 may be attributed to people feeling less comfortable with having an HPD inspector visit their apartment in person during the pandemic period, and therefore less likely to report a violation.

Bar graph showing new housing code violations per 1,000 privately owned rental units in New York City from 2006 to 2020 by whether it is a non-serious or serious violation.

Following the reopening of housing court in June of 2020, the number of private eviction filings increased slightly, but remained well below the number of filings seen in prior years. 

In early 2020, there were fewer private eviction filings than in each of the previous three years, a continuation of a decline since 2010. In response to the pandemic and starting in March, housing courts across New York were limited to emergency filings (which excluded nonpayment filings). Housing Courts reopened in June, which resulted in a slight increase in case filings, though various state and federal eviction moratoria continued to limit the filing or execution of certain evictions. Ultimately, the total of 68,574 private eviction filings for 2020 was only half as many as 2019. The geographic distribution of filings following the re-opening in June largely mirrored the distribution outlined in last year’s Focus Chapter, with the exception of Corona, Queens, which also experienced a high number of COVID cases early in the pandemic.

Line graph comparing the monthly eviction filings in New York City in 2019 and 2020.
Map showing the 2020 eviction filing rates by zip code in New York City, March to December.
Map showing the 2019 eviction filing rates by zip code in New York City, March to December.