Rent in New York City is notoriously expensive. Those rent-controlled apartments on “Friends” and “Sex and the City” weren’t remotely realistic in terms of what the average 20- or 30-something can afford. According to CNBC, Monica’s two-bedroom apartment would easily rent for $7,000 to $8,000 per month – no small feat on a chef’s salary.
To get a better idea of what it truly costs to live in neighborhoods across the Big Apple, we took a look at the average rent for apartments by neighborhood. It’s a rude awakening, to be sure.
Housing Expenses to Consider
Housing expenses don’t end at rent. But some apartments come with amenities and advantages that can save you money elsewhere in your budget. Keep the following things in mind as you run the numbers on what you can afford to spend on rent.
The 30% Rule
Conventional wisdom holds that Americans shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their salary on housing costs. That’s a tall order in expensive housing markets such as New York City. In fact, many New York City landlords require potential renters to prove their annual income is 50 times their monthly rent. That means spending less than 25% of your gross income on housing in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world.
When lenders qualify borrowers for a loan, they calculate something called a “front-end debt ratio.” It’s the percent of the borrower’s gross income that the housing payment would require. Most conforming loans limit this ratio to 28%, and FHA loans limit it to 31%. So applying 30% as a limit for renters is in the same ballpark as what mortgage lenders allow.
But living in New York City comes with an unusual advantage: Residents can get around without a car. Budgeting is a zero-sum game, so renters can opt to apply money saved on things such as car payments and fuel toward their rent. The average American spends $9,576 per year on transportation, or 13% of their gross income. New Yorkers without cars could theoretically spend 43% of their gross income on housing and still fall within an average American’s combined housing and transportation budget – if they avoid the temptation of taxis and save money with public transportation, that is.
Gross vs. Net Income
The following factors are often deducted from your gross income, so take them into account when considering how much cash you have available for rent:
- Health Insurance Premiums. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, the average New York worker pays $131.50 per month for their health insurance premium, not including their employer’s contribution.
- FICA. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is a mandatory payroll deduction that helps cover Social Security and Medicare. The FICA rate is 7.65% of income.
- Taxes. Your income tax bracket varies widely depending on your income and filing status. It could be as little as 10% or as high as 39.6%. Tax deductions for things such as child care expenses and charitable contributions can reduce your effective tax rate.
- Retirement Contributions. IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement accounts are phenomenal investments, but they can take a bite out of your take-home pay and limit your rental budget.
- Other Deductions. You may have life insurance, disability insurance, or other deductions taken out of your paycheck.
Additional Housing Expenses
Many rental prices in New York include utilities, but not all buildings include all utilities. Always ask prospective landlords about the actual cost of utilities and which expenses are your responsibility.
Depending on the building, you may be responsible for:
- Electricity. According to Numbeo, the average monthly cost for electricity, heating, water, and garbage for a 915-square-foot apartment is $142.97. But expect that to vary wildly depending on the square footage of your apartment, its energy efficiency, and your energy conservation practices.
- Heating. If it’s not included in the rent price, heating could run $25 to $100 per month.
- Internet and Cable. Numbeo puts the average monthly cost of Internet service at $64.12. Higher Internet speeds and premium cable packages cost more.
- Trash. Paying separately for trash is much more common in a townhome than in an apartment. Either way, it shouldn’t cost more than $25 per month.
- Water and Sewer. These are typically combined and should not cost more than $50 to $75 per month.
- Parking Fees. Parking is at a premium in New York City, and prices vary wildly depending on location. Even paid parking is a luxury for many New York City apartments, which is why the subway is so popular. It’s not uncommon to pay $400 or more per month for a parking spot – and that’s in addition to rent. Per Marketwatch, New York City claims the dubious distinction of some of the world’s most expensive parking, including spots listed for sale at $1 million.
- Laundry. Your building might have a coin-operated washer and dryer, which could charge anywhere from $0.50 to $5.00 or more per load. Some New York City apartment dwellers opt to send out their laundry to a wash-and-fold service for a per-bag or per-pound fee. Expect to pay at least $1 per pound if you go this route.
- Fitness Center. Gyms and fitness centers average $84.37 per month in New York City. If your building has a fitness center and you aren’t charged per visit or per month, you can bet you’re paying for it anyway with a higher monthly rent payment.
You should also get renters insurance through a company like Lemonade, especially if you own any valuable personal property you can’t easily replace with cash on hand. According to Obrella, the average monthly cost of renter’s insurance in New York is $17.58. But expect to pay more if you need to cover high-value items, such as expensive jewelry or unusually high-end electronic equipment.
Rents Across the Boroughs
If you have a limited budget, you can kiss New York City’s hot spots goodbye. You won’t be gazing out over Central Park or walking to Times Square unless you have Olympian calf muscles and marathon-worthy walking shoes.
New York City is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Most of the examples below represent individual neighborhoods within the boroughs, particularly within Manhattan and Brooklyn, as they feature the most dramatic price fluctuations. For Staten Island and The Bronx, rents are averages for the borough as a whole.
Rental data for a one-bedroom apartment is compiled primarily from RENTCafé and is in order of ascending rents within each borough.
Manhattan has been expensive and chic for decades, so rents in Manhattan have less room for growth than the other boroughs. From 2019 to 2020, Manhattan saw a 2% rise in rents, which is in line with inflation.
Still, that slow pace of growth provides scant reassurance for Manhattan residents, who paid an average borough-wide rent of $4,208 in 2020.
- Average Monthly Rent: $2,965
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $118,600
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $82,744
Many New Yorkers don’t consider East Harlem part of the traditional Harlem community. Located north of the Upper East Side in Manhattan with a large Puerto Rican population, East Harlem is better known as “El Barrio” or “Spanish Harlem.”
While East Harlem has long struggled with issues such as crime and poverty, it has undergone some gentrification in recent years. A growing Chinese immigrant population has begun influencing the neighborhood’s character as well. Rents have risen sharply, and today, foodies visit East Harlem for its excellent Latin American and Caribbean restaurants.
Hell’s Kitchen (Clinton)
- Average Rent: $4,053
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $162,120
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $113,107
No one knows exactly where the name “Hell’s Kitchen” originates. But the legends all trace back to the mid- to late 1800s when the neighborhood was dominated by German and Irish immigrants, gangs, whiskey, prostitution, riots – and, allegedly, a tradition of inviting strangers for a whiskey, then dousing them with it and throwing a match at them.
Regardless of the name’s true origin, the days of whiskey-dousing and riots are ancient history. The neighborhood abuts the Theater District, and its many restaurants and bars cater to the pre- and post-show crowd.
As the neighborhood has gentrified, corporate real estate investors have tried to rebrand the neighborhood “Clinton.” Fortunately, the locals stand by its far more memorable historic name.
- Average Rent: $4,320
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $172,800
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $120,558
Get the pronunciation right if you visit Greenwich (“Gren-itch”) Village. Better yet, simply say “The Village” while in town.
Located on the eastern edge of south-central Manhattan, the eastern flank of The Village used to be lumped in with the larger Lower East Side area. However, since the 1960s, the East Village has developed a strong identity independent of its surrounding areas, warranting its own neighborhood designation.
The East Village has historically been the center of countercultural movements, such as punk rock. Once upon a time, it attracted young, diverse residents thanks to affordable rents and a lively entertainment scene.
While no one would call the East Village “affordable” outside of New York City, it retains a lingering independent spirit and lower rents than surrounding neighborhoods.
- Average Monthly Rental Cost: $4,370
- Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $174,800
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $121,953
Chelsea’s name dates back to the mid-18th century when it was the property of British military official Thomas Clarke. He named his estate after the neighborhood of Kensington and Chelsea in London.
Located in the western portion of Manhattan, Chelsea is known for its robust arts scene with over 200 galleries. Once famous for its LGBTQ population, it maintains a higher-than-average density of gay bars. However, some gripe that the LGBTQ community has been priced out in recent years.
Upper West Side
- Average Monthly Rent: $4,668
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $186,720
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportaton Expenses): $130,270
Nestled between Central Park and the Hudson River, the Upper West Side has long been associated with New York City affluence along with its sister neighborhood, the Upper East Side. While other neighborhoods wax and wane in fashion, the Upper East and West Sides consistently remain en vogue and have the price tags to prove it.
While primarily residential, the Upper West Side boasts hip restaurants and shopping along Central Park. The proximity to the park itself is also a perk.
- Average Monthly Rent: $4,598
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $183,920
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $128,316
Like its eastern counterpart within Greenwich Village, West Village served as an epicenter of the 1960s counterculture revolution. It also served as an LGBTQ-friendly locale for at least that long. Home to myriad off-Broadway theaters, jazz clubs, brownstones, New York University, and Washington Square Park, the West Village is fun, funky, and beautiful.
Nowadays, it’s also extremely expensive. If the East Village is too pedestrian for you, you can show off your wealth with a ritzier West Village address.
- Average Monthly Rent: $5,301
- Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $212,040
- Gross Income for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $147,935
Short for “South of Houston,” SoHo charms tourists with its cobblestone streets and cast-iron facades. It also parts them from their money with its upscale art galleries, designer boutiques, and high-end retail chains.
At night, residents and visitors alike can dine at ritzy restaurants and trendy bars and clubs. If quiet or affordability are priorities for you, look elsewhere. But if you like being in the center of the action, SoHo offers plenty of it.
- Average Monthly Rent: $5,607
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $224,280
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $156,474
Tribeca, short for “Triangle Below Canal Street,” is located in the south-central portion of Manhattan. Residential development in Tribeca dates back to the late 18th century, though lately, it’s known for ultra-hip condos and high-rises built to meet the increased demand for posh housing.
Famous for hosting the annual Tribeca Film Festival, the neighborhood attracts ample tourism year-round, along with a slew of celebrity residents who can presumably afford the outrageous rents.
Brooklyn has skyrocketed in popularity over the last 20 years thanks to a flourishing arts scene, hipsters, and craft beer. Rents have shot up in equal measure, posting 5% gains between 2019 and 2020.
Here is a sampling of some of Brooklyn’s most magnetic neighborhoods and their not-so-magnetic pricing. Boroughwide, the average rent is $2,951 as of 2020.
- Average Monthly Rent: $2,226
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $89,040
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $62,121
Known as “Little Odessa” for its predominantly Russian and Eastern European population, Brighton features a wealth of restaurants and food markets serving traditional fare from “the old country.”
If you like a bumping nightlife comprising edgy clubs, Brighton Beach should be on your radar. The beach itself historically catered mostly to locals, in stark contrast with neighboring Coney Island. That started changing in recent years as more Manhattanites and tourists take the easy subway trip over to Brighton Beach.
- Average Monthly Rent: $3,514
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $140,560
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $98,065
Originally incorporated as the “Village of Williamsburgh” in 1827, Williamsburg became part of New York City when Brooklyn became a borough in 1898. In recent years, Williamsburg has emerged as a hub of the hipster community, with a substantial independent music scene and arts community.
But just as old-school Brooklynites complained about Brooklyn gentrifying and attracting a young arts scene, the artists and hipsters are starting to become victims of their own success. It’s anyone’s guess how long they’ll be able to afford to stay.
- Average Monthly Rent: $3,559
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $142,360
- Gross Income Requiredfor 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $99,321
Located in the western portion of Brooklyn, Park Slope has thrived in the wake of an exodus of families from Manhattan in search of more space, lower rents, and more family-friendly amenities.
With its abundance of green spaces, mom-and-pop boutiques, and a pleasantly laid-back restaurant and bar scene, Park Slope’s rise in popularity feels inevitable. Of course, that has sent rents skyward.
- Average Monthly Rent: $4,056
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $162,240
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $113,191
With higher rents than many Manhattan neighborhoods, Greenpoint has spearheaded the hipster-artist movement to convert old warehouses into studios for both art creation and apartments.
Restaurants in Greenpoint set trends in greater New York and the nation at large. The local music scene is vibrant. Parks and new high-rises offer stunning views of Manhattan’s legendary skyline.
In short, it’s uber-cool, uber-artsy, and as a result, uber-expensive.
The largest of the five boroughs, Queens has a diverse feel, from the urban vibe of western neighborhoods such as Long Island City and Flushing to the more suburban feel of neighborhoods such as Bayside and Douglaston-Little Neck.
It’s also ethnically diverse; roughly 48% of its residents are immigrants born overseas. The average borough-wide rent is $2,568 as of 2020.
- Average Monthly Rent: $2,073
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $82,920
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $57,851
On the eastern portion of Queens lie suburban Douglaston and Little Neck, two sections of the same neighborhood segmented by Marathon Parkway.
It’s a relatively quiet neighborhood with an active civic life. It boasts higher college graduation rates than the city at large and has better public school performance than elsewhere in the city.
Since Douglas-Little Neck is a suburb, it’s significantly harder to get around it on foot. However, the neighborhood has two train stations that reach the rest of the city.
- Average Monthly Rent: $2,574
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $102,960
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $71,833
Located along the East River, Astoria was named in the late 1830s for John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man in the world at the time. The name was an attempt to lure an investment from Astor, but he ended up only investing $500 in the area.
Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image pays homage to America’s film history in the building that previously headquartered Kaufman Astoria Studios. The studio was an industry powerhouse in the early and mid-20th century, and Astoria retains a cinephile vibe to this day.
Today, Astoria serves as home to a range of Greek and other ethnic restaurants representing the vast diversity of its inhabitants.
Long Island City
- Average Monthly Rent: $3,525
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $141,000
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $98,372
On the western tip of Long Island, between Astoria and Greenpoint, lies Long Island City, known to the locals as LIC.
Once an industrial zone, Long Island City has completely transformed over the last few decades. It’s now known for its art galleries, trendy restaurants, young professionals, and most of all, its glittering high-rise towers with stunning views of Manhattan.
It also features uncharacteristically high rents, largely an outlier in Queens.
4. The Bronx
- Average Monthly Rent: $1,708
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $68,320
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $47,665
The Bronx is the northernmost borough of New York City. It’s home to the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, and the New York Yankees baseball team.
Named for Swedish-born Jonas Bronck, who created the area’s first settlement in 1639, the Bronx has a storied history that continues today. It faced significant social issues and crime in the 1970s and 1980s, but the city and private developers have invested billions of dollars over the last several decades to combat urban blight and revitalize the borough.
The Bronx remains a work in progress, however, with high crime rates relative to the rest of the city.
5. Staten Island
- Average Monthly Rent: $1,500
- Annual Gross Income Required to Meet the 30% Rule: $60,000
- Gross Income Required for 43% Rule (No Transportation Expenses): $41,860
Located in the southernmost portion of New York City, Staten Island boasts the most affordable rent prices of any of the five boroughs. In fact, Staten Island is the only borough with a lower average rent than the U.S. as a whole; average nationwide rent is $1,442. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given that Staten Island isn’t accessible by the New York City subway system. Instead, it is famously reached via the Staten Island Ferry.
Evidence of Native American civilizations on the island dates back to 14,000 years ago, and the first European settlements were recorded in 1520. Today, Staten Island offers both urban neighborhoods and more-suburban areas, such as the South Shore. It also features beaches and one of the longest boardwalks in the world.
If this list leaves you sticker-shocked, you’re not alone. There’s a reason New York City is known simultaneously as a place for dreamers and crushed dreams.
For most Big Apple residents, affording a one-bedroom apartment on a single salary just isn’t practical. That’s why so many New Yorkers have roommates, even in one-bedroom apartments. Others consider a studio apartment or a closet in someone else’s apartment.
According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in the United States is $68,703. That means the average American family with one or more cars could only afford to live in two boroughs, the Bronx or Staten Island, without breaking the 30% Rule. By living without a car and using a car rental company like Turo, a median-income family could survive in several of the neighborhoods outlined above.
Just don’t expect to be eating out at all those trendy restaurants every week if you earn an average salary and want to live in New York.
Have you ever lived in New York City? In which borough? Did you think it was worth the cost of living?