City sees jump in renters who shell out more money

More New Yorkers are digging deeper into their wallets to pay their rent because of a lack of affordable housing, according to a report released Wednesday.

High home prices have forced 68.3% of New Yorkers to rent instead of own and more than half of New Yorkers paid more than 30% of their income on rent in 2012, compared to 41% in 2000, said the report conducted by the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit finance watchdog group.

Charles Brecher, the organization’s consulting research director who co-wrote the study, said the crunch is tougher in New York compared to other cities because there is a lack of new homes in the pipeline.

“We have a bigger chunk of the population where affordability is an important issue,” he said.

The CBC study, which analyzed U.S. Census data, said the city was below places like Miami, Los Angeles, Detroit and Philadelphia with regards to the percentage of renters shelling out most of their income on rent, but another affordable housing advocate said the devil is in the details.

Gregory Jost, the deputy director of the University Neighborhood Housing Program in the Bronx, said those figures are worse because of New York’s larger population and its density.

He added that some Bronx residents pay more than 50% of their income on their apartments and have to rent out some of their rooms to get by.

“The report is looking at averages,” he said. “If you get down on the neighborhood level, you will find bigger concentrations of struggling renters.”

A study released by City Comptroller Scott Stringer in April found that renters who made between $20,000 and $40,000 a year paid an average 41% of their income on rent. His office didn’t return messages for comment.

Jost said one of the biggest factors of this crunch is the lack of affordable housing options or developments. The CBC report found that between 2000 and 2012, the amount of housing units only increased by 5.8% in the city compared to areas like Austin, Texas, which saw a 30% jump, or Miami, which saw a nearly 25% increase.

Jodi Stasse, the managing director for new developments at the real estate group Citi Habitats, said the recessions in the last decade really set back construction. Even though the economy is on a rebound, it will be some time before new apartment buildings begin to counter rising rents, she said.

Stasse added that many of the new buildings that are in the pipeline are luxury residences, though developers are working on creating affordable housing to meet the high demand.

“They are looking at it as a necessity for the city,” she said.

Public Advocate Letitia James said the report made it clear that the city needs to continue to push developers to focus on affordable housing first.

“I have put my support behind Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing plan, which represents a $41 billion proposal to build and preserve 200,000 affordable units citywide,” she said in a statement.

De Blasio’s office, which helped broker a deal that made more affordable units at the Domino Sugar Factory development, didn’t comment about the report by press time.

Brecher said he and his group will continue to put out more details about the dearth of affordable housing soon. He hopes the mayor can use this data to enact better policies that will aid working class New Yorkers.

“The biggest thing we can do is help him see it in perspective,” he said.