May 26 2016
Living in Brooklyn

Surviving Brooklyn Housing Costs

I moved to my Brooklyn neighborhood during my tender 20’s to escape the roomate-necessitating rents of Manhattan.  I got my very first solo apartment here and it was in an affordable, safe and nice neighborhood.  Fast forward 15 years and I’m still here, except like many neighborhoods in NYC, the real estate bubble has turned what had been a regular, family-friendly neighborhood into a land rush for international zillionaires.

Sigh.

One of our neighbors is moving back to England or Spain or wherever he came from, and plans to rent his apartment.  My husband asked what he was charging.  Oh, $5K per month, but most likely more.

Yes, you heard that right, anyone not living in San Francisco.  This is a LOT more than we pay to live on this street, and all our apartments are about the same size.

This is the kind of information that makes a regular family feel like the tide is simply against them, that they are in a place where they do not belong.  Is it inevitable that we should go find a cheaper place to live, like many of our friends who are tired of the math and of living with one bathroom for a family of four?

I am determined not to let this mentality have power over me.

We are home here. And happy for reasons too many to count.  In fact, our only “unhappy” line item is that we can’t own and that means at any moment, my landlord could die or sell the building and we are faced with a brutal rental market and a complete lack of  security.  These are important things, but for the moment at least – they are just “concepts.”   Here are a few other concepts that I think are important:

  1. Whether I owned my apartment, or paid $5K per month to live here, or less that I now do – my daily existence would look, feel and for the most part be the same.
  2. A mortgage does not necessarily mean security.
  3. There are many people in this world with a great deal more money than me and I know that many of them are not necessarily happier than me.
  4. Living where I live is expensive, but there are many expenses I do not have as a renter, including the heavy cost (financial and emotional) of commuting.
  5. The suburbs are no panacea and they have their own extra expenses.
  6. Moving out of the city is something you should do because you want to live in the suburbs, not because you think it is the only way to “get ahead.”
  7. Should I still look for ways to live more sanely, spend less money? Absolutely.

The only way to survive in this expensive city when you are not a Wall Street exec is to seriously change your mindset. You cannot compete with other people in a “sky’s the limit” kind of town.  You have to block that out and focus on what really makes you happy… the things that compelled you to put up with so much to stay in the city you love in the first place.  Most of those things are available to all, regardless of your cost of “membership.” For us it’s the energy on our block – the old friends, the nights outside socializing, eating and drinking, playing in the street and kids running everywhere.  The beautiful old architecture, the history, the jewel of a park, the million things to do, the food, the convenience (except for parking!).

We’ve been here a long time and our landlord hasn’t kept our rent increases tied to the market.  He knows we’re good tenants and probably is not inclined to renovate. I can only assume one day this will no longer be true.  But until then, I’m going to try to save money as best I can and let myself enjoy living on a great block, in a great place.

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  • Amen to changing your mindset to survive. I’m a Queens gal myself, but I’ve never been able to afford (well, choose not to afford) no roommate life. Probably because I was making next to nothing when I moved here and now I’m too attached to my spacious apartment to move to a place I could afford sans roommate! 😛 Watching the gentrification process (and feeling a bit guilty that I may be part of the problem) is such an interest NYC experience. I highly recommend checking out the podcast “There Goes the Neighborhood”. Not sure where you are in Brooklyn, but it likely touches on your neighborhood!

    • Hi – thanks for the comment! Gentrification is LOADED. Anyone who moves to a gentrifying neighborhood is technically part of the problem, you could say. Yet we all resent the people who come in after and make it even more expensive. I have a terrible fear that as my friends, who are regular people like me, keep fleeing, I will one day be surrounded by ultra-wealthy people that I don’t like. That could be the one thing that really ruins it for us and makes us consider a different nabe.

    1. […] numero uno.  I’m sorry to say I don’t have any tricks for making it cheaper.  It is one of those areas where mindset is key.  My friends and I all complain about our small apartments. It would definitely be nice to have a […]

    2. Broke Millennial 06:39am 28 May - 2016 - Reply

      Amen to changing your mindset to survive. I’m a Queens gal myself, but I’ve never been able to afford (well, choose not to afford) no roommate life. Probably because I was making next to nothing when I moved here and now I’m too attached to my spacious apartment to move to a place I could afford sans roommate! 😛 Watching the gentrification process (and feeling a bit guilty that I may be part of the problem) is such an interest NYC experience. I highly recommend checking out the podcast “There Goes the Neighborhood”. Not sure where you are in Brooklyn, but it likely touches on your neighborhood!

      • Brooklyn Bread 12:26pm 29 May - 2016 - Reply

        Hi – thanks for the comment! Gentrification is LOADED. Anyone who moves to a gentrifying neighborhood is technically part of the problem, you could say. Yet we all resent the people who come in after and make it even more expensive. I have a terrible fear that as my friends, who are regular people like me, keep fleeing, I will one day be surrounded by ultra-wealthy people that I don’t like. That could be the one thing that really ruins it for us and makes us consider a different nabe.

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