Affording the Unaffordable: Better Housing Is Primary Reason for NYC Metro Area Relocations

Affording the Unaffordable: Better Housing Is Primary Reason for NYC Metro Area Relocations

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” sang Frank Sinatra back in the 80s when New York was a mecca for all who dreamed of experiencing the most exciting city life the world could offer. But how much truth do these lyrics still retain? Is New York still projecting the same type of magnetic appeal to Americans – and to people from all over the world?

As it turns out, the Big Apple is still ahead of the game when it comes to in-migration, according to a recent report from self-storage search website STORAGECafé. The New York-Newark-Jersey City metro area still attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year. More than 417,000 people moved to the New York metro area in 2017, the most of all metro areas in the country.

However, at the same time, about 480,000 of the city’s residents moved out, resulting in a negative net migration of about 63,000 people. The actual population change from 2017 to 2018, a number that includes not only net migration but also births and deaths, was also a negative 19,174.

The only other metro areas in the United States that registered more population loss than Metro NYC from 2017 to 2018 were Metro Puerto Rico, which lost almost 130,000 inhabitants, San-Juan-Carolina-Caguas with 81,000 people lost, and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin with 22,000 people.

Who’s Moving to Metro New York?

The New York metro area doesn’t have a problem in attracting new residents – the issue is with retaining current ones. But, with a huge metropolis such as New York, it’s only natural that mobility is elevated among its residents. The dynamics of the city are always changing and accepting the challenges that come with living in a fast-paced environment can be difficult.

Focusing on those moving in, it must be noted that the primary source of newcomers to the New York metro area is from abroad – 67,000 of the people heading this way in 2017 came from Asia. The largest domestic source of incoming migration is the neighboring Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metro area – more than 18,000 people from there moved to the New York metro area in one year.

In terms of age, people moving to Metro New York are predominantly millennials – 38% of all newcomers, as per the American Housing Survey data. Following closely behind are Gen Xers, representing almost 37% of the people who moved here in one year. Another 7.5% of the newcomers are under 25 years old, and only 15% of the incoming movers are Baby Boomers. 

This means that most of the people moving to the New York metro area are on the younger side – more than 82% of them are under 54 years of age, while about 45% are under 35. That means that the metro is getting a steady supply of “young energy,” which should compensate, at least partially, for the overall population loss.

People Are Moving to Metro New York in Search of Better Housing

When it comes to the reasons why people choose to move to the New York metro area, interestingly enough, a good portion of them, a little over 18%, are doing so in search of a larger or a better-quality home, while 15.2% seek a more desirable neighborhood. 

Another 16.5% of new arrivals are making the move in order to form their own households, while almost 10% are motivated by a desire to be closer to family. Surprisingly, only 6.1% of the new residents are coming in for a new job or because of a job transfer.

The newcomers have a slight preference for central cities within the New York metro area – 51.5% moved to a central city, while 48.5% moved to a suburb inside the metro area. The vast majority, 76%, were renters when moving here.

For almost 50% of the newcomers, moving to the New York metro area meant increased housing costs. It’s only fitting, since 33.4% of them were in fact searching for better housing or a better neighborhood, and that doesn’t come cheap. For almost 25%, housing costs remained about the same, while a thrifty 18.7% managed to decrease their housing costs.

Rent Prices around Metro New York 

Speaking of housing costs, let’s see how rent prices fare around the New York metro area, since most of the newcomers are most likely renting. Manhattan ended 2019 as the most expensive area in the country for renters, with a monthly average of $4,208 for units in 50+-unit buildings, according to Yardi Matrix.

Per the same source, renting an apartment in Brooklyn was around $2,955 during the same month, while Queens was slightly less expensive, with an average rent of $2,546. New Jersey area had an average monthly rent of $2,399 in December 2019, while an apartment on Long Island rented for $2,171 during the same period of time.

Self-storage, which is one of the expenses that usually come with changing residences, also counts when looking at the overall affordability picture. Renting a self-storage unit in New York City calls for an average of $172 per month, for a standard, 10X10 locker. New Jersey is less expensive in terms of self-storage – a self-storage unit in New Jersey costs about $147 per month for the same type of unit.

Even with the negative net migration, demand is still strong and apartment and self-storage construction is growing in the New York metro area, a good omen for renters and newcomers. There are almost 55,000 apartments under construction in the metro area, representing an 8% growth compared to January 2019. Self-storage construction is also booming – there are 3.65 million sq. ft. of storage space under construction in the New York metro area as of January 2020, a whopping 82% increase from January 2019.

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