Wednesday, July 17, 2013

NYC Apartment Search

I consider myself fortunate to have lived in a cheap apartment by NYC standards for as long as I have. Originally, my mom, brother and I lived in the small one bedroom for about 5 years when she and my step dad separated until they got back together about four years ago. The landlord was OK with me staying and requested additional security since I was “so young”, but eventually dropped the rent by $50 because I was “such a good tenant”.

When my boyfriend and I found out I was pregnant, we decided it was best to hold on to the $850 apartment instead of rushing into getting bigger space so that we may save instead. Our landlords were OK with him moving in, but not so much when they discovered I was pregnant. That’s when the problems started. My landlady’s response to why it would be a “problem” for us to have a baby was “we had a couple that was not married and they had a baby and they used to fight a lot. The police even had to come one time so you see? That’s why we don’t want couples that have children out of wedlock in our apartment.” And then she raised the rent.

Now I get that when you pay cheaper rent you sacrifice certain things like heat during the winter and repairs to the giant hole in the living room wall caused by the neighbors in the attached house. You put up with street noise and pollution blowing in our apartment since we’re on the ground floor, we deal with the landlord’s father in law smoking directly in front of the house so that the wind blows the smoke inside through our open living room window. We deal with repairs to the apartment not being taken care of and asked questions like “what did you do to cause that crack in the ceiling?” months after requested repairs.

On that snowy day when we brought our son home from the hospital to a freezing apartment, I was told “you see? I told you this baby was going to cause problems for us” when I requested the heat be turned back on. I had to deal with random “inspections” multiple times a month and constant drop ins (they live in the house next door) so they could see how many visitors we had because “when you have a baby, everyone wants to come see it and we never approved you having company over”. 

I was harassed by my landlady, asked if I was receiving government benefits because “I know the government gives money to minority women that have babies out of wedlock so if you’re getting money from the government I need to know.” Huhhhh?????? And WHY would it be any of her business you may ask because I certainly did ask and her response was- “if you’re getting cash from the government then I can raise your rent because you have more money.” I was threatened on Christmas Eve with yet another rent increase (only months after my first one by the way) because the guy next door rented his two units and got more money so they felt it was best I find something new so they could rent it out for more money.

We stayed because we weren't going to pick up and voluntarily leave just because we felt bad our landlords weren't making as much money as the guy next door. We decided even though we weren't happy living in such a small apartment we’d A) wait till we were financially ready to move or B) wait until we were told we have to leave hoping the former would come first. Well, the time has come and our landlady asked us to leave in 60 days and I should feel “lucky I gave you 60 days because I only have to give you 30 days notice.”  

Finding a reasonable two bedroom apartment wouldn't be such a challenge if we weren't already spending money on daycare. The cost of the average apartment in Brooklyn is currently $2600. Landlords normally request you earn 40x the rent which means you would have to earn approximately $104,000. The average household income in Brooklyn is approximately $60,000 which means the average household qualifies for a $1500 apartment. Add childcare, insurance and the other expenses families with children have and even a $1500 apartment may not seem all that affordable. Affordable housing in NYC is going to get even tighter for the neediest New Yorkers. With cuts and decreases to Section 8 vouchers, those at or below the poverty line are not going to be able to find anything at all.

It leaves me to wonder if the middle class or lower middle class can continue to live in the outer boroughs of NYC (forget about Manhattan) if the prices continue to rise. Its as if the teachers, healthcare workers, civil servants, secretaries and retail workers don't count. We contribute greatly to this city but with the way we are being pushed out it is clear we are not valued as doing so.

I have 60 days to find something. I will be sure to provide updates on my search and provide resources for anyone struggling to find housing in NYC as well.