|Madison Avenue on the Upper East by Jason Paris via Flickr|
When I decided to move to NYC last year, I had no idea how hard it would be to find a place to live. One would think that an able-bodied person with a job and a savings account would have no problem renting an apartment, but this isn’t always the case in New York City.
So, this is the final post in my New York housing saga, for now. If you’ve followed the last posts, you know that in three weeks, I went from having an apartment with mice and no utilities (that includes heat!) to having a broker basically steal a few thousand dollars, to getting rejected on an application.
I later found out that all of the applicants with whom I was going to live got rejected – an interesting response, when you consider that four roommates with a combined income of $350,000 were applying for a $4,500 per month apartment. This is where I could start a discussion on the benefits of rent control, as well as the downsides, which include the fact that if a landlord rejects all applicants for an apartment and it sits empty for a month, that landlord can raise the rent. Ah, bureaucracy.
Alas, I digress.
I found out I was rejected from said apartment building two days before I needed to be out of my then current apartment. Yes, it was literally two days, and no, I am not shortening that time frame for dramatic effect.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit where I turned to next — Craigslist. I even enlisted my retired mother’s help in the search, although her lack of knowledge on New York housing schemes meant she’d send emails labeled “This one looks great.” I didn’t have the heart to reject her help and tell her that a Park Avenue apartment listed at $500 a month is pretty much a guaranteed bait-and-switch – as are apartments requiring a foreign deposit upfront, asking for money before you’re allowed to view them, or offering “alternative rent arrangements.” If you want to waste some time on Google, search for how craigslist housing schemes are operated. You’ll either know what to watch out for, or learn a new way to rip people off over the internet. It’s a win-win.
Finally, I found one with promise. A four-month sublet (temporary housing) on the Upper East Side with a flexible start date and no background check. As I needed a place the next day, and didn’t have time to grab my checkbook, let alone undergo a background check, this was ideal. I emailed the owner, and went off in the rain to visit the apartment.
|I am subletting an apartment on the Upper East Side–by pchurch92 via Flickr|
After arriving at the building and announcing my presence by dripping all over the lobby carpet, I was able to dry off enough to view the place. It was tiny – the living room was probably 8 feet by 10 feet and the kitchen was half that. But it was available immediately, and could be mine if I wrote a check, which I promptly did. The next evening, I moved my things in, and spent the whole first weekend sleeping off the previous month of housing stress.
So now I have an apartment until the end of May, and I dread going through this entire ordeal again. It’s frustrating to have spoken with several real estate agents, and have them all tell me the same thing: people like me fall through the cracks in New York. While there are many groups of people in New York City who face unfair challenges within the system, this was my first time being in one of those groups, and it was eye-opening.
As a young, single female with no ties to NYC, no rich parents to be my guarantors, and a slim credit history made of little more than on-time student loan payments, I basically cannot find anyone who will rent to me. And if I sue either of my previous landlords who ripped me off, I’ll have a history in rental court, which means the vast majority of landlords will reject me off the bat. I have a comfortable income which I consider fairly good for my age, and yet because I don’t have credit, I’m unable to really call anywhere home. Call me crazy, but if I can’t afford something, I don’t buy it on credit – and that includes my car.
So I think in May, my next move is going to have to be to leave New York, because it doesn’t seem like this city wants me here. I’ll look at CT or NJ, and try to find a community where everyone is given a fair shake at finding an apartment, or at least a community with several bars within walking distance. It’s going to make my commute much longer, and I’d like to think that it means New York City is losing a young, hardworking person who would spend money, create jobs, and contribute to the betterment of this city .
But for now, I have a home. It’s more than I can afford, smaller than I’d like, and I still have to go to the laundromat. But I’m not living at a hotel, hostel, women’s shelter, or airport lobby – all of which I thought about at one point.
|I could’ve ended up in a hostel like this–by PabloBM via Flickr|
I’m not sure where to go from here, and happy to take suggestions where I should look for my next apartment. In the meantime, I don’t worry about where I’m going to sleep next week, and there’s no way to describe how good that feels.