Survey: Almost 40% of New Yorkers Don't Dare Test Eviction Ban Even Amid Job Loss

Mass layoffs will mean limited budgets for many households in New York City. Find out how New Yorkers are prioritizing their expensing during a time of crisis in the city. Learn what is most important on the list.

This past month, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment---366,403 in New York alone have filed last week of March. The staggering number of layoffs is creating financial uncertainty. Many Americans are now taking a hard look at their monthly habits and how to prioritize their expenses.

In light of the current economic downturn due to the coronavirus quarantine in New York, PropertyNest conducted a survey to see how New Yorkers would spend their money if they lost their jobs.

Survey Highlights:

PropertyNest asked:

"If you lose your job due to the coronavirus pandemic in NYC, which of these expenses would you prioritize over your rent?"

  • Almost 40% of New Yorkers would put their cash towards rent as their top priority. 39.3% of survey respondents selected "I would prioritize my rent over all", while medical bill or supplies/prescriptions received 30.5% and savings account or emergency fund received 9.4% as second place and a distant third, respectively.
  • Alcohol was the top priority for 7.1% of respondents. Out of the three "comfort" items, alcohol was the top selection for respondents, beating out toilet paper at 5.7% and sweet treats at 2.8%.
  • Alcohol and toilet paper were far more important to male than female participants. Men made up 77.8% of responses for alcohol and 68% of responses for toilet paper. Alcohol was the top third response overall for men (over savings).
  • Student, credit card, or loan debts were less important to respondents than saving money. Only 5.3% of New Yorkers considered this a priority--a clear difference from those who selected savings account or emergency fund.
  • Women valued paying rent and medical bills more than men did. Female respondents made up 56% and 61% of those who selected these answers. As a matter of fact, all payment obligations were ranked higher among women than any consolation items like alcohol, toilet paper, or sweet indulgences.
  • 18-34 year-olds made up the largest number of respondents who ranked debt as their highest priority.
Expenses priorities chart

Even with so many New Yorkers already unemployed and the freeze on all evictions, almost 40% said that paying their monthly rent was their top priority. However, that may not come without great hardship.

A previous survey of ours showed that about 40% of New Yorkers are living paycheck to paycheck. While unemployment may bridge some of that income loss, unemployment checks do not cover the entire span of your lost paychecks.

Keeping up with monthly expenses will be difficult for a large part of New York City's population.

The fact that savings account/emergency fund ranked third among the choices may be that some people are going to be saving as much as they can in case there are even rougher times ahead.

This might be insight for whether some will be taking advantage of the temporary eviction moratorium.

The survey also sheds light on the fact that even in these hard times of massive layoffs, illness, and quarantine, many young people are still burdened by their student debt.

New Yorkers Are Worried About Medical Expenses

Nearly a third of respondents (30.5%) selected medical supplies/bills/prescriptions as their top priority even with job loss, making it the second-most important expense.

Needless to say that those with preexisting medical conditions requiring prescription drugs will want to make sure they continue to get their supply.

The COVID-19 pandemic is fueling concerns about being able to pay hospital bills and life-saving care in the case of severe infection.

Toilet Paper May Be an Impulse Hoard

Although photos of empty shelves and humorous memes of toilet paper hoarding have circulated for months, it appears that when given thought about budgeting, toilet paper is not a top priority for most New Yorkers.

As a matter of fact, alcohol was ranked higher at 7.1%.

Toilet paper hoarding could come from an instinctual or thought-out assumption that people would be quarantined indoors for months with no access to basic needs.

There could also be a secondary group of hoarders who saw supplies running out and realized that they may not have access due to others' hoarding.

While toilet paper was a must-have panic item in the shops, so were eggs, milk, and flour, bread, canned food, and pasta.

Overall, 39% of New Yorkers may have chosen their rent over creature comforts and other necessities because a roof over one's head may be the ultimate security.

The Stimulus Check May Be Too Little Too Late

While the economic stimulus bill passed by Congress has allocated funds for individual American households, it's intended for the households in greatest need.

A family of four could theoretically receive up to $3,400 ($1,200 per adult and $500 per child) if earning $75,000 or less. However, many argue that this would not go far in places like New York City as this is a one-time payment and rents tend to be much steeper.

Furthermore, many Americans will be waiting for months for their checks in the mail. Only taxpayers who already have direct deposit set up with the IRS will be receiving their money next month.

The Freeze on Evictions Does Not Solve the Rent Issue

While Governor Andrew Cuomo is currently satisfied with an eviction moratorium as an answer to paying rent, it is a temporary solution.

A landlord cannot evict tenants for nonpayment for the next three months (at least), however, it begs the question "What happens after that period to tenants who couldn't pay rent?"

A landlord may be forced to evict a tenant because they cannot pay their own bills with a tenant who doesn't have the money to pay or repay.

Once a tenant gets evicted it then becomes tremendously harder to establish oneself in a new rental. This may lead to a rise in homelessness in the city.

Survey Methodology

PropertyNest conducted an online survey among New York residents on which expense they would prioritize first if they lost their job. 1,007 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.