New York City

New Yorkers Flock Back To The City And The Race To Find Apartments Is As Hard As Ever

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What to Know

  • Throughout the pandemic renters saw far lower rents across Manhattan but now that restrictions have been lifted prices are going up.
  • Young people are struggling to find affordable places and racing to get to apartments first.
  • Even those living in rent stabilized apartments will see an increase in their rents in the coming months.

The pandemic may have brought lower rents to Manhattan tenants but the lifting of COVID restrictions means that rents are starting to rise, and those looking for apartments are racing to get those final good deals.

For months now there has been an overflow of empty apartments, up to 13,718 in December, leading to a drop in rent prices across the city and landlords offering several months free off rents. But now that restrictions have been lifted throughout NYC, schools begin in-person sessions again and offices begin to open, people are flocking back to the city, making the process of finding an apartment that much more difficult.

Kaitlyn Walker, a 24 year-old who has been living in New York City since 2019, went to an open house for a two-bedroom apartment in Chelsea last week only to discover that the line to see the apartment went down the block.

"I got there about 40 minutes early just by chance...and I saw that there were already people waiting on the steps starting to form a line," Walker recounts. After having to wait 45 minutes to see the unit she was able to get in, however those who did not arrive early likely did not even get a chance to go inside the building. "I am glad I was able to get in. They did end up stopping the open house at 1:30. Everyone who had waited in line just ended up having to leave.” 

This is the third apartment that Walker has rented in the city, and she was expecting the process to run far smoother because of the overflow of empty apartments she kept hearing about. "Funny enough I thought this summer it was going to be easy! This is when things are starting to get back to normal...and you know I heard that there was a lot of apartments that were going to be up on the market."

Compared to last August, when Walker had to look for an apartment in the peak of the pandemic, she says that she found difficulties in the process and a time crunch over seeing and applying to units. "New York apartments have so many different facets to it so it was a lot more difficult than anticipated.”


the reality of apartment hunting in nyc rn 🤪 good luck y’all #nyc #brutal #foryou

♬ brutal - Olivia Rodrigo

22 year-old Sophie Lambert who is moving to New York City for grad school experienced a similar urgency to get to apartments first while looking for a one bedroom in June. Coming from Atlanta, Georgia, Lambert planned a week long trip with her parents to see as many apartments as possible.

"I could definitely feel the market picking up literally the whole week we were there, even the first day we got off the plane and we took a taxi straight to the first listing and that already had a line down the steps, it was a fourth floor walk up." From there, Lambert went on to see up to 10 apartments a day during her trip.

While she was in no way expecting a calm experience while looking or apartments, Lambert was surprised at how competitive the market was. "It seems like there is a lot of interest in studios and one bedrooms in downtown Manhattan. There seems to be a lot of young people trying to move back to the city and taking advantage of some lower rent prices before they rise up again," she said.


#greenscreen HOW IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO EXIST IN THIS GFORSAKEN PLACE #nyc #ny #newyork #20s #zillennial #apartment

♬ original sound - danya

Horror stories of rents rising by $1,500 dollars within the spam of an hour and renters having to offer higher bids for apartments are becoming more and more common. Even those who live in rent stabilized apartments will see increases to their rent in this upcoming year as the Rent Guidelines Board approved an increase of 1.5 percent for six months of one-year leases and 2.5 percent on two-year leases starting in October of this year.

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