The number of empty rental apartments in Manhattan has trebled in 12 months as New Yorkers look to flee the coronavirus pandemic and a surge in violent crime.
More than 15,000 rental properties are now on the market, the highest figure on record and a huge jump compared to last August’s figure of 5,600.
Prices are down by four per cent since last year after a slump in demand, according to a report by Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel – while realtors in the Hudson Valley have enjoyed a boom in business from New Yorkers desperate to avoid the ‘cabin fever’ of another lockdown.
Studio apartments in Manhattan have seen a particularly stark collapse, with new leases down by 27 per cent after solo renters were left stuck in cramped apartments at the height of the pandemic.
This chart shows how the number of empty apartments in Manhattan has surged over the last 12 months in a record spike compared to the previous 12 years of data
The median rental price in Manhattan (black line) has fallen sharply during 2020 while there was also a notable decline in the number of new leases earlier in the year (grey bars). The data is from a report by Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel
Manhattan landlords saw just under 5,000 new leases last month, compared to more than 6,500 in August 2019 – a drop of 24 per cent.
The vacancy rate, at 5.1 per cent, has reached a new high for the fourth month running after rising from only 2.0 per cent in the same month last year.
Housing analyst Jonathan Miller said that ‘the vacancy rate was unusually high, and the trajectory was steep’.
Brooklyn has also seen a surge in empty apartments, with 3,900 of them currently on the market compared to 1,700 a year ago.
In Northwest Queens, the number has increased from 360 to 642 over the same period while average prices are also down.
Studio apartments have become less attractive in all those parts of the city, with 1,089 of them leased in Manhattan last month compared to 1,496 a year ago.
There was also a large drop in demand for one-bedroom apartments in the borough, with 1,996 leased in August 2020 compared to 2,491 in August 2019.
By contrast, real estate brokers have reported a boom in home sales and rentals in picturesque towns and wooded hills in upstate New York.
A man loads belongings into a removal van in Manhattan last week amid a surge in demand for more spacious homes outside the city
Steven Domber, a Hudson Valley real estate agent, said in June that sales were up by a third in rural stretches of the valley beyond the city’s northern suburbs.
‘There has been a big uptick from Manhattan people, no doubt about that,’ said Domber.
‘Number one, it’s cabin fever, which is wanting to get out of an apartment and having some land if, God forbid, there’s a lockdown again.’
New York City was hit devastatingly hard by the first wave of the pandemic, with 19,098 deaths in total since March – more than many countries.
Moving out of the crowded city has also become more realistic because working from home is now seen as normal.
House hunters say that buses, subways and movie theaters are likely to remain under restrictions for some time, making city life less attractive.
In addition, New York has seen a dramatic 166 per cent rise in shootings over the last 12 months along with a 34 per cent jump in murders – while the city prepares to cut police budgets under pressure from protesters.
Burglaries are also up by 42 per cent compared to last year, while the number of shootings has risen in every borough except Staten Island.
A moving van in the Greenwich Village neighborhood last month, with home hunters keen to avoid the ‘cabin fever’ of another lockdown
Acknowledging a trend of ‘surging violence’, the NYPD says it has made more gun arrests and shifted officers to areas that are seeing more shootings.
However, the pandemic has left the city with a $9billion black hole in its budget and Bill de Blasio agreed $1billion of cuts in NYPD funding in June.
Thousands of protesters camped outside City Hall to demand cuts to police funding at the height of the race protests following the death of George Floyd.
The crisis has led to fears of New York City being plunged back into the 1970s and 1980s when it was notorious for crime and racial tension.
A poll published last week found that 42 per cent of New Yorkers say the city is on the wrong track, compared to 46 per cent who think it is on the right track.
Poorer people were most likely to be worried, with 47 per cent of people with an income below $30,000 saying the city was on the wrong track.
By contrast, only 39 per cent of those with incomes above $125,000 were similarly worried, with 54 per cent saying the city was headed in the right direction.
Some 41 per cent said race relations in the city were poor or very poor while only 19 per cent called them good or very good, according to the Manhattan Institute survey.