Students struggle to afford off-campus housing as rents surge

Due to increases in New York City rent prices, many students at NYU’s Greenwich Village campus are having trouble finding affordable apartments.


Samson Tu

Rent prices in the city have soared to a historic high, leaving students struggling to find apartments for the summer and the 2022-23 academic year. The increased prices are due to a shortage of available apartments and an increased demand. (Staff Photo by Samson Tu)

Carmo Moniz and Belle Mbaezue

With New York City rent prices at a historic high, many students are struggling to find affordable off-campus housing for this upcoming summer and the 2022-23 academic year. Some students said they feel overwhelmed by the city’s high cost of living, especially when looking to rent in neighborhoods near NYU’s Washington Square campus. 

Rent prices in New York City have risen at double the national rate, with a 33% increase between January 2021 and January 2022. Tisch first-year Lulu Tantillo said that trying to accommodate her budget has put stress on her, her family and her future roommates.

“I only started looking recently, but it’s been a little overwhelming,” Tantillo said. “It’s been a little disheartening trying to figure something out that’s affordable and doesn’t have any catches.”

New York City newcomers and renters who left at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic are moving back to the city as it continues its return to pre-pandemic conditions. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul ended the state’s indoor mask mandate on Feb. 10, and New York City mayor Eric Adams discontinued the vaccine requirement for indoor venues in the city on March 7. With an influx of renters into the market, high demand and a shortage of available apartments have enabled landlords and property owners to raise rents.

Manhattan’s median monthly rent hit an all-time high of $3,700 this month, with monthly rent prices for two-bedroom apartments increasing by $849 since last February. As of February 2022, the median monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in East Village, where many NYU students live, is $3,900. Greenwich Village’s average two-bedroom rate is $4,495.

After a dip in prices during the pandemic, high demand for apartments has led monthly rates to resurge, surpassing prepandemic rates in nearly every neighborhood where students frequently rent. Popular areas for NYU students include Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, the West Village, the Upper West Side and the Lower East Side in Manhattan, as well as Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn.

Tandon sophomore Neil Kumar said he was considering living alone next year, but could not find an apartment within his budget near NYU. He decided to find a roommate — and said he might need to find another — in order to manage the costs of living close to campus. 

Broker’s fees, a payment required by some real estate agents for their assistance in securing an apartment, have also made finding affordable housing a challenge for NYU students. The fees usually cost around a month’s rent or about 15% of a yearlong lease. Tisch first-year Luis Figueroa Caunedo, who is seeking an apartment with his roommates, said he found it nearly impossible to find an apartment without one.

“It's much harder to find a place without one now, especially in downtown Manhattan,” Caunedo said. “On top of the fact that rent has gone up since last year — obviously pandemic prices went down a bit, but it's just been really hard. I'm looking early, and it's only going to get worse because more and more people are looking for apartments at the last minute.

CAS first-year Arion Mercado said that he and his roommates moved into their apartment on the Upper East Side last semester, but are considering living in other parts of the city to save money next year.

“We would have liked to stay in an area similar to this, but obviously, rent’s pretty expensive over here,” Mercado said. “We had considered maybe Long Island City or Queens or Brooklyn. We were considering moving out to another borough because rent’s typically cheaper in those areas.”

In addition to paying more for rent and fees, some international students have had to sublease apartments at higher rent prices because many leases require bank statements and social security information, which some do not have. 

Tisch senior Mariela Morales, an international student from Bolivia, said that despite searching since the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, she did not find an apartment until February. She said that her options had been to either sublease at prices she could not afford or to live with strangers to decrease the cost. Eventually, she was able to take the place of another student that was moving out of their apartment.

“Thank God I had a family member who lives in Queens who took me, but I was literally all semester looking for a place,” Morales said. “The housing crisis is making it worse because I know that rent prices are skyrocketing.”

Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected] and Belle Mbaezue at [email protected].