Survey: 66% of New Yorkers Are Barely Scraping By For Rent Money

With the eviction ban coming to an end in New York in August, PropertyNest wanted to find out the financial health of renters by asking how much of their income was going to rent. Learn what the results were and what that means for millions of New Yorkers who rent.

A staggering 500,000 households owe back rent, according to an analysis of census data by the research group National Equity Atlas. The system could be overwhelmed when the eviction moratorium ends in August unless the goal post gets pushed back once again.

A nationwide eviction moratorium has protected millions of renters who could not afford to pay their rent due to the Covid-19 pandemic since August 2020. To date, just $3 billion of the allocated $47 million of financial assistance hasreached tenants and landlords. As infections continue to rise in some States, no resolution seems to be in sight yet for renters and landlords across the country with moratorium deadlines being constantly pushed back coupled with scant federal and local aid for those facing rent hardship.

There is a widely accepted rule, that a healthy amount any household should be spending on rent is up to 30% of their income. However, New York has a steady place in the world’s most expensive cities to rent in. In addition, with the financial hardships that many New Yorkers facing due to the pandemic, this “healthy” margin may no longer be a realistic goal. More renters than ever may find themselves at risk of losing their housing.

An earlier PropertyNest survey had shown that 20% of New Yorkers may be facing eviction when the moratorium runs out.

This time, PropertyNest took a look at how much of their income renting New Yorkers used for rent. We wanted to know how many were actually paying 30% or less of their income to rent, how many were paying more, and how many couldn’t afford their rent at all.

Survey Highlights

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PropertyNest asked:

“If you rent an apartment in New York, how much of your income has been going towards paying your full monthly rent in 2021?”

  • A staggering 45.4% of respondents are spending more than 30% of their income to pay rent; some of them over 75% of their income is going towards rent. Of that 45.4%, 20.3% of respondents said 31%-50% of their income was going towards rent. This was the top response.
  • More than a quarter of respondents are allocating over half their income to rent in New York. 14.3% were paying between 51%-75%; and for 10.8%, their rent totaled more than 75% of their income.
  • Another 21.3% either couldn’t pay their rent in full or at all. The third most selected response was “I can’t pay my rent at all” at 16.2%, which was fairly evenly divided between male and female respondents, at 49.7% and 50.3%, respectively.
  • Only 15.3% of respondents were the most comfortable with using less than 10% of their income for rent. Men made up 60% of the respondents in this group. Men over the age of 65 fared the best among all age groups and genders. They made up the largest number of respondents who were paying less than 10%, and made up the smallest number of respondents who said they couldn’t pay their rent at all.
  • Younger respondents 18-24 and 25-34 were more likely to choose 11%-30% as their top response. Older respondents were more likely to select 31%-50%.
  • 18% of respondents selected 11%-30%. This was the second most selected response. Women edged out men slightly in this category, 51.5% to 48.5%.
  • Female respondents also edged out men when it came to paying more than 75% of their income to rent and those who could not pay in full.

The national attention remains focused on rent affordability and evictions as the Federal eviction moratorium expired at the end of July. The lack of federal protection in place and with many States lacking strong tenant protection may trigger a wave of evictions that cause the most vulnerable Americans to become homeless. It's hard to predict the full extent as there is a tremendous backlog in the courts.

New York State’s eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of August. Based on the survey results, over 78% of respondents in New York will manage to pay their rent, even if it means allocating most of their income to rent. However, over 20% of renters are in the red when it comes to rent. These are currently the most vulnerable to eviction if the moratorium is lifted.

Overall 45% of respondents do not have a healthy income to rent ratio. They could be one unforeseen major expense away from not being able to make the next monthly rent. Allocating more than 30% of income towards rent automatically increases the vulnerability of renters, especially if they live paycheck to paycheck.

Financial Assistance For Renters in Need

Some non-profits and state programs are assisting the most at-risk renters. Currently, New Yorkers that are either 80% below their area’s median income or spending more than 30% of their income on rent are eligible to receive up to three months of financial assistance for rent from the state.

There are also other nonprofit organizations offering assistance to residents and sometimes by professional designation. For instance, the Places Please Project is offering rental assistance to NYC theater industry workers. Organizations like Catholic Charities has stepped up their game over the past year, assisting New Yorkers with financial assistance as well providing as housing options for those at risk of eviction.

PropertyNest put together tips on how New Yorkers can pay rent during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Steps To Cushion Yourself From Future Rent Hardship

Prevention and preparedness are the best ways to combat a potential lapse in housing or eviction order due to nonpayment. Many experts recommend having at least six months of rent in savings. This should be enough for most situations, however, it may not be sufficient to sustain renters during a long-term period with financial hardship compounded, such as loss of work, medical bills, disability, credit or loan debt, etc.

It may also be helpful to make sure you are one of the renters who is allocating 10% or less of their income to rent or a mortgage. If you can’t afford a high monthly mortgage payment, then it’s best to wait until the housing market’s prices level off a bit. If your rent is on the high side, consider moving to a more affordable property or neighborhood.

You can discover some hidden gems in New York City that aren’t just affordable but also great neighborhoods to live in, in general. You might have to sacrifice longer commute times into the city but it may be well worth it if it means you get to save extra money each month.

For inspiration, check out our guide of the New York City neighborhoods with the best rental deals.

Survey Methodology

PropertyNest conducted an online survey in New York on how much of their income renters are spending on their monthly rent. June 26 to July 27, 2021. 1,172 respondents ages 18 and older participated with a margin of error of +/- 2.1%.

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.