A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 19, 2022

The Reason More People Are Now Moving To Manhattan Than Pre-Pandemic

Covid vaccination reversed the tide of people moving out of the city, which now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the US and has contributed to its reputation as a safe place to live.

Work from home and hybrid work arrangements have also helped the spike in new arrivals to New York, as people want access to the urban cultural, fashion and lifestyle offerings, but dont have to commute to an office. Jl

Bloomberg reports:

The city has seen a steady influx in new and returning households. Between 2020 and 2021, 33,000 households moved into Manhattan, and 43,000 households arrived between 2021 and 2022. In 2022, 5,000 more households have moved in but they now face a 40% surge in rental increases as more people moving to the city puts pressure on demand for housing. Once the COVID vaccine distribution began in 2021, it led to bigger tide of new residents coming in. Work-from-home policies are contributing to the population influx.

More households are moving to Manhattan now than before the pandemic in 2019 - but they now face a 40 percent surge in rental increases as even more people moving to the city puts pressure on demand for housing. 

'New York City had one of the largest declines in the first stage of the pandemic and one of the fastest rebounds,' Rob Warnock, a senior researcher at the rental search platform Apartment List, told Bloomberg

In the first two years of the pandemic - between April 2020 and December 2021 - nearly 153,000 households fled the Big Apple, according to according to Melissa, a global data intelligence and address analytics company.

In that time period , Manhattan alone lost 117,375 residents, while the five boroughs as a whole lost more than 333,000 people, according to the US Census Bureau.  

But despite the loss of those residents, the city has seen a steady influx in new and returning households. Between 2020 and 2021, 33,000 households moved into Manhattan, and 43,000 households arrived between 2021 and 2022, according to Melissa. And in 2022 alone, an estimated 5,000 more households have moved in. 

With the steady stream of new residents, the city has seen an extraordinary amount of housing competition, coupled with the end of COVID-era discounts, that has caused median rent in Manhattan to hit an all-time high of $4,000 per month in May, a 40 percent increase from a year ago and beating out February's high of $3,700, according to a new report from real estate brokerage firm Douglas Elliman

But even as households flock to the city, the overall population is still down and it is putting a strain on the city's economy, according to Bloomberg. So far, just 36 percent of office workers have returned, putting stress on local businesses to survive. 

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many New Yorkers fled the city, which had among the highest cases in the nation, causing rental prices to plunge as desperate landlords tried to lure willing renters into their units with special deals. 

Many property management firms offered deep discounts or sweeteners, including multiple months of free rent, to entice renters to sign new leases.

Jonathan Miller, who prepared the Elliman report, said that the deals not only worked to keep some New Yorkers around, but it also enticed others who left the city after previous rent hikes to return to take advantage of the new discounts. 

Once the COVID vaccine distribution erupted in 2021, Miller said it disrupted the narrative that the city was 'unsafe,' leading to bigger tide of new residents coming in. 

According to data from the United States Postal Services, following the peak of vaccinations in the spring, New York City gained a net 6,332 residents between July and November 2021. 

Miller also noted that as mortgage lending remains tight, fewer people are able to qualify for homes after thousands left the city to enjoy work from home in the suburbs. 

In the last two years, 15,956 households left Manhattan for the suburbs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with 8,609 moving to other major cities.

Miller said that not only is the tide now reversing as more and more people are being pushed out of the housing market in the suburbs and into the rental market in New York City, but he also added that work-from-home policies are actually attributing to the population influx. 

'We've had this stereotype that working from home means people are moving to the suburbs, but remote work is a perk anyone can take advantage of,' Miller explained. 

'People are now free to live anywhere in the city where they don't have to care about their commute.' 

While appearing to aid population growth, the remote-work lifestyle could strain the city's economic recovery as only 36.6 percent of workers returned to their offices so far, Bloomberg reported. 

Mayor Eric Adams has pleaded with companies to prioritize mandatory attendance in order to stimulate the city's bruised economy, and 7.6 percent unemployment rate- the worst in the US - thanks to the continued popularity of working from home.

Workers readjusting to pre-pandemic rituals such as long commutes, juggling child care and physically interacting with colleagues have yet to make a full comeback to the office, with at least 28 percent of Manhattan office employees sticking to fully remote work, according to a May report by the advocacy group Partnership for NYC.

Many argue that such routines have become more difficult two years later, citing increased exposure to COVID-19 and increased costs for lunch and commuting.

While housing in the city remains alluring, many are complaining that the increase competition is causing rent to soar at historic levels.

One Tik Tok user who went by Michael said he got a letter from his landlord that his rent would be going up by $1,300. 

'The fact that we're getting an increase of $1,300 pretty much prices us out  on principal alone,' Michael said. 'This enrages me because I've heard other people's rent are going up 50 per cent.'  

New Yorker Stephanie Leigh went on to TikTok to vent that the landlord over her condo decided to raise her rent 'an absurd amount.' 

'This market right now is insane,' Leigh said as she went apartment hunting at an East Village complex where units went for as high as $8,000. 'I've never seen it like this, and this is my eighth time moving in New York.' 

Prices in the city have also been affected, to a lesser degree, by warehousing, a practice where apartments are shelved by landlords in order to drive up demand and wait for better renting deals in the near future.

Data from Zillow shows that while the number of available housing units in New York City reached nearly 100,000 in August 2019, the number has now plummeted to just over 40,000 in April.  

The Real Deal reported that more than 1,814 apartment listings were removed in March in order to drive up competition in the market, a moved condemned by state Assembly member Linda Rosenthal. 

'I think it is unconscionable that some landlords are keeping units off the market, and are just, you know, sitting with their arms crossed waiting for rents to go up,' Linda told the Wall Street Journal after landlords levied the vacant units in an attempt to overturn a 2019 law that removed a 20-percent rent hike on rent controlled apartment. 

Evan Rugen, a former real estate broker, said his apartment has four units that are currently vacant because they're rent controlled, meaning the landlords cannot raise the price that the previous tenant held as they hope the state will overturn the law.

'They're betting the law will change back, so [the units] just sit vacant, taking an apartment away from a New Yorker,' Rugen said. 'This New York city rental market is ridiculous.' 

Rosenthal plans to introduce a law to fine landlords who warehouse apartment for more than three months.


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