The Rent's Too Damned High: 15,000 words on the ways real-estate speculation and inequality have killed NYC


Originally published at:


I grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In the 70’s nobody wanted to be there. We heard bullet shots several night a week.

Then it got gentrified, that was great I was middle class so I could afford it. Then it became a “resort” (Bloomberg) and an investment. Now it is so pricey I had to move to the suburbs.

I am low vision and can’t drive. I am a second class citizen who was priced out of my hometown.

I am in the city at night and see most apartments are unlit and un-lived in, investments or pied-a-teers
for rich people who are hardly ever there. These people do not spend money in NYC and do not contribute to the local economy or the life of the city.

My idea is to tax anyone who does not live here but owns an apartment. This could be done simply, anyone not registered to vote in NYC would pay the tax.

New York was a great city now it is only great if you are rich. If you have owned an apartment for many years or are rent stabilized you probably don’t do much because so much has become so expensive.


I’ve only been able to skim the article and find nothing there to dispute, but I’ll add one other thing that doesn’t apply to New York quite so much, but does to many other cities: all the jobs have left the central city. This is the problem with San Francisco and it’s the problem in Philly where I live. Unless you work for one of the universities, it’s likely you’re reverse commuting to some far flung suburban office park. I don’t want to do this and I’ve tried to arrange telecommuting as much as possible, but as a single person with no interest in having kids there’s no attraction whatsoever for me to move to Delaware where my job is for no reason other than tax arbitrage on the part of my employer.


I don’t have to read it, I lived it.


This is not the case in NYC.


It’s a long article worth reading by anyone who cares about urban issues. For those who don’t want to plow through it, this quote from Tommy Washington, a plaintiff in a lawsuit against a NYC BID that employed him at illegally low wages, sums it up:

"How are you going to represent beautify if you’re doing ugly behind that?”

For a long time, starting in the early 1990s when I moved there, even that was somewhat sustainable because whatever was going on inside there was a lot of genuine surface ugly finally being repaired and covered.

But now the greed of the landlords and developers has gotten to the point where the ugly is leaking out in the form of the abandoned storefronts, the eyesore “supertall” condo towers, the indoor design elements and amenities that are in-jokes for the ultra-wealthy, the poor doors, the countless ATM lobbies and Duane Reeds, and on and on.

This is the current American late-stage capitalist economy writ small: something that appears prosperous but really only benefits a select few. Eventually, though, the ugly starts oozing through.


Yeah, I know Manhattan has kept most of its offices, though you see some minor flight to Brooklyn, Long Island City, and Jersey City for the departments that don’t generate revenue, at least in my industry.


Vancouver BC is facing the same problem and has instituted a ‘vacant home tax’. I doubt it will make much difference; I live downtown and almost a third of my building is unoccupied by the owners, or anyone. There are help wanted signs all over the downtown core because young people can’t afford to live here and can find work closer to where they live.


Maybe they should pay them more?


The minimum wage is now $15/hr but when 1 bedroom apartments are renting for $2-4K, you’d better be in a relationship so the rent is split or have zero social life.


Per month?


New York has a unique problem that many other cities do not have. A flood of foreign investors using NYC real estate as a way to launder money or hide it from their own governments. It accounts for the large amount of Russian and Chinese buyers in upscale neighborhoods and the death of ancillary businesses around them.


Easily that much. 2K a month gets you a hovel in NYC


Looks like pre-brexit London to me.


I think that this is a problem, but it’s not a rare one: it’s common to London, Toronto, Vancouver, LA, Paris, Miami, etc.


That was a great article. My favorite part was “The rich will always be with us.” So true. We have a new neighborhood in Boston that reminds me of what’s going on in Manhattan The Seaport


NYC and London are extreme examples of what’s happening in every desirable global city in the West (and many outside). In North America, L.A., Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco, Miami, and Vancouver are for various reasons becoming increasingly unaffordable for working class people.

Vacant home taxes and such are a good start, but I can’t say they make a whole lot of difference. What’s needed are better zoning policies, commitments to affordable rental housing, and upgraded rent control legislation for existing residential and commercial properties.


Yep. There are a couple of heritage apartment buildings beside us that fetch $2K and up for a 1-bedroom suite.
They have been refurbished and brought up to Code over the past couple of decades but the main selling point is the location. The Kitsilano neighborhood outside the downtown core is pretty much the same.
A 2-bedroom, 1,000 square foot apartment in one of the downtown concrete towers can easily net $4,000-4,500/month. If I hadn’t been riding the housing market as an owner for almost 3 decades, there’s no way we could live downtown.


This could be about any great metropolis


This is going to get harder to do since I’ve heard equity firms are getting into the rental business big time. This scares me worse than the media consolidation since at least you can consume/produce media that isn’t produced by those companies but you can’t wave a wand and make your own land/apartment/housing. This is just going to get worse before it’ll get better. >_>