Survey: 39% of New Yorkers Won't Be Able to Pay the Rent If Out of Work Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak.

The coronavirus outbreak in New York City will disproportionately affect New Yorkers. Find out how many people will not be able to afford rent if work must stop due to the spread and who will be affected most.

In light of the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, COVID-19 in New York City, PropertyNest conducted a survey to see one of the ways that New Yorkers could be affected by the public health crisis.

The PropertyNest survey asked New Yorkers in all five boroughs of all ages groups, how many months of rent they could afford to pay for if forced to stop working due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Survey highlights:

The PropertyNest survey asked:

"As a New York City resident, if you must stop working due to the coronavirus outbreak, how long will you be able to pay rent?"

  • 38.9% of all New Yorkers would not be able to pay an extra month of rent if their jobs/paychecks were to be put on hold or lost due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. This is the largest group of people surveyed across all age groups and genders.
  • An income gap or wealth inequality is clearly highlighted in this survey. The top responses were that respondents could pay for 0 months (38.9%), followed by having 6 months or more of savings (25.2%), and 1 month (13.9%), respectively.
  • Gender pay inequality may play a role. Women made up a larger portion of those who had 0-2 months of rent available to them from savings, if without work, while more men made up the responses for being able to pay for rent for 4 or more months. For those who responded 0 months, 56.5% were women, for 1 month 57.1% were women, and 63.1% of those who selected 2 months were also women. Men made up 60.4% of those were selected 4 months, 58.9% of 5 months, and 55.5% of 6 months or more.
  • Men and women were about equal among those who had 3 months of rent available to them (men made up 50.6% and women 49.4%).
  • More younger adults would feel the pinch. More than half (51.2%) of those aged 18-24 who participated could not pay for any rent if they lost work due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in New York City. The top two answers for this age group was 0 months and 1 month of rent.
  • 25-34-year-olds, however, made up the largest group of those who selected 0 months at 19.1% of all respondents who selected 0 months.
  • Those aged 65 and up seemed to fare the best as they made up the largest group of respondents who said they could pay up to 5 months of rent and 6 months or more of rent.
  • Generally, across the board between genders and ages, the fewest number of people had around 5 months of rent saved up. There were far more respondents who had 6 or more months of rent available to them.

The results showed that savings didn't necessarily improve with age, with the exception of those 65 and older. This may be due to the fact that more of those 65 and older would not be affected from lack of work as many of them may already be retired and receiving income through social security or pensions. (Respondents aged 55-64 did make up larger portions of those who can pay 4 to 5 months of rent.)

While the situation continues to be fluid on a daily and sometimes hourly basis in New York City with the recent spread or the COVID-19, public-facing businesses will continue to face decline.

The current and ongoing restrictions may not affect New Yorkers who are able to transition to working from home, but there are still plenty of residents who have jobs in the service and hospitality industry that will find themselves either out of work or with reduced hours.

These might include but are not limited to hourly-wage workers in restaurants and bars, retail, theater and entertainment, as well as educational institutions, and janitorial staff in office buildings.

This survey paints a grim picture for many of the city's residents that may already be struggling.

The pay gap between men and women may also play an important role in who is able to weather times of crises and is very clear from this survey as the number of participants was almost equally men and women.

This insight may show that having a higher income, even if seemingly minute in difference, allows one to save extra income to not only weather financial storms, but to build equity, save for retirement or to buy a home.

Mitigating the Financial Effects of the Outbreak

Measures should be taken at the local, state, or federal level to curtail the loss of income, for both tenants and landlords, as the loss could trickle down to more devastating effect. While all eviction proceedings have been put on hold in the courts, it remains to be seen what the landscape will look like once business starts returning to normal after the emergency is lifted.

Will tenants out of work suddenly be on the hook for lost rent once they resume work? What happens if their job no longer exists due to the loss of business?

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has already lamented on the unacceptable figures in relief funds the federal government is granting the state of New York. What kind of government relief can New Yorkers expect?

Survey Methodology

PropertyNest conducted an online survey among New York residents on how many months of rent they could pay if they could no longer work due to restrictions from the coronavirus outbreak in New York City. 2,048 respondents ages 18 and older participated with a margin of error of +/- 2.7%.

Ruth Shin
About the author

Ruth Shin is the Founder and CEO of PropertyNest. She shares in-depth insights on real estate, personal finance, and home improvement drawing from her experience as a licensed real estate agent, editing personal finance publications, and managing many home renovation projects. Ruth graduated with a BA from Hunter College in Writing, History, and Special Honors.