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You Need to Earn $130K to Rent a 1-Bedroom By Yourself in Manhattan

By Amy Zimmer | November 10, 2015 6:59pm
 New Yorkers who want to live alone have few options for affordable housing, many say.
The plight of the single New Yorker
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MANHATTAN — If you’re planning to live alone and rent a one-bedroom in Manhattan, you’ll have to earn roughly $130,800 a year.

That’s 40 times the amount of September’s median monthly asking rent, which was a record $3,271, according to real estate search engine Streeteasy. Many landlords require tenants earn 40 times the rent in order to sign a lease.

Those looking in Brooklyn have to be high earners, too: median asking rents for one-bedrooms were $2,200 a month, meaning someone would have to earn $88,000 a year to pay that.

Lynn, a 35-year-old graphic designer, moved to the city 13 years ago, first to Bushwick, then to Boerum Hill, Park Slope, and Carroll Gardens, always living with friends or boyfriends.

After a recent break-up, she decided to pursue her dream to live alone for the first time, preferably in a one-bedroom for under $1,500 a month.

“I’ve been seeing all the crappy places New York has to offer,” said Lynn, who requested DNAinfo use only her middle name. Two studios she looked at in her price range around the Clinton Hill/Bedford-Stuyvesant border both had two-burner hot plates above a beer fridge.

“I’m 35,” she said. “I don’t think I could honestly live with a hot plate and feel like I’m doing OK.”

More than half of the city’s population are single New Yorkers, according to Census data; 32 percent of the city’s households are made up of New Yorkers who live alone, Census figures show. And while many developers are focusing the microsuite model on millennials, single households skew older.

Only 19 percent of single-person households are under 35 years old; 20 percent are 35 to 55 years old and just over 50 percent are older than 55, according to a report from the Citizens Housing Planning Council. Yet, there are few housing options for single person households, especially older people, the report added.

Developers are well aware that single unit prices are prohibitively expensive for many single New Yorkers, and since they can’t do much about the high costs of land and construction here, they’re hoping to squeeze more tenants into buildings by creating smaller units.

Many are catering to single people with “micro-suites," where tenants, each with their own small room, share a kitchen and bathroom, often with amenities appealing to the post-college crowd, such as cleaning services, high-speed Wi-Fi and rooftop gardens like at a newly launched Crown Heights building that costs $1,800 a month for rooms.

They’re also hoping to build more micro-units — defined as apartments smaller than 400 square feet — especially as the city is floating new zoning codes that would allow for developers to build units of this size, reversing a ban implemented in the 1980s.

“[It] shows that the city is thinking about this and would like to make this type of apartment buildable,” said Tobias Oriwol of Monadnock Development.

Carmel Place at 335 East 27th St., which is owned by Monadnock, offers 55 microunits ranging from 250 to 370 square feet. (The new zoning, should it pass, however, would not allow for entire buildings composed of microunits like Carmel Place, officials noted.)

The affordable housing lottery for 14 of the building’s units — priced at $950 a month for single households earning up to $48,350 and $1,492 a month for someone earning up to $78,650 a year — closed earlier this month.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development received more than 60,000 applications, Oriwol said.

A recent DNAinfo analysis found that the most popular affordable housing lotteries were buildings that all had smaller-sized units, such as studios and one-bedrooms.

Chris Bledsoe, of Stage 3 Properties, is working on several projects that focus on micro-suites targeting 20-somethings.

He noted that as people delay marriage there’s “an entire subset of renters who are no longer looking to 'nest' at home with their spouse or a significant other. Instead, they are craving social experiences.”

He also said they regularly receive applications from renters across age groups, from graduate students with too much debt and medical residents looking for services that support their 24/7 on-call lifestyle to recent divorcees seeking to ease the transition from their previous living arrangements to empty nesters unwilling to sell their other homes.

His firm targets prices — in a fully loaded building — between $1,000-$2,000 per month for tenants in co-living spaces and $2,000-$3,000 in the micro-studios.

“Sticking with the 40-times income threshold, this means Stage 3’s spaces are available to tenants who earn $40,000/year,” Bledsoe said.

More than 89 percent of one-bedrooms in Manhattan are asking more than $2,000 a month, and 51 percent are asking more than $2,000 in Brooklyn, according to a recent study from search engine Trulia.

“I tell [clients], it’s going to be really challenging to look by yourself, but two of you together have more options since there are way more two-bedrooms for $2,500 than one-bedrooms for $1,500,” said broker Sonia Daniel Brown, of Miron Properties.

Or she shows them units further out in the boroughs.

To cover her bases, Lynn, the designer, went house hunting with another friend for a two-bedroom in Brownstone Brooklyn, but the open houses were filled with “all of these cute couples,” Lynn recalled, which made her feel down about her prospects.

“We have stable jobs, and on paper are great, but when you’re single it looks like you’re more unstable than when you’re a unit,” she said.

The most promising lead is a 1.5-bedroom apartment in a Kensington gingerbread house for $1,400 a month, a short walk to Prospect Park, which she heard about through her social network.

Though it’s far from many of her friends, she said, “I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”