Despite Deep Rent Cuts, Essential Workers Are Mostly Left Out

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“Yes, prices are going down, but they’re not going from $3,000 to $1,400,” she said. Prices were softer in the luxury market, such as an Upper West Side one-bedroom apartment she leased in October for $4,350, including landlord concessions, down from $6,000.

There is also a mismatch in inventory. Most of Manhattan’s affordable apartments were studios, Ms. Wu said, while nearly half of essential workers have at least one child.

Among the many kinds of essential workers, there can also be disparities. A factory worker making about $60,000 a year can afford $1,500 a month in rent, using the 30-percent-income formula, and can find over 30,000 apartments in New York City that fit their budget on StreetEasy. The average health care worker, who makes about $52,000 a year, can pay $1,300 a month using the same formula, but their options shrink to just under 4,100 apartments. A grocery clerk, who might make less than $31,000, with a rental budget of $775 a month, would find virtually no market-rate listings in that range.

Of course, many New Yorkers spend more on rent than they can comfortably afford. In 2018, the latest year data were available, almost 53 percent of New Yorkers were rent burdened, meaning they spent more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent, according to the New York University Furman Center.

But renters can take some solace in the hope that rents will continue to soften in the months to come, Ms. Wu said. Even as leasing activity improves, there is still a near-record level of inventory, because of high unemployment and outbound migration.

“There’s no plateau in sight,” she said.

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