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So nice, they charge you twice

The leasing agent wasn’t exaggerating when she informed Armacost that a $2,300 budget might be limiting. The median monthly rent cost for an apartment in New York City is $4,163, according to the most recent numbers from Rent.com.

Armacost isn’t the only one to feel the pain. Over half of the city’s residents are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities, according to a 2021 analysis from the non-profit, Community Service Society of New York. And given the way rent has been trending since then, it’s likely that there are even more rent burdened New Yorkers now.

Unsurprisingly, the high cost of housing has driven middle-class earners out of New York. The Census numbers show that the city’s population has gone down 5.3% since the pandemic — much of which was because its residents fled to cheaper pastures.

Read more: Thanks to Jeff Bezos, you can now cash in on prime real estate — without the headache of being a landlord. Here's how

Leave the Empire State behind

Armacost hails from Indiana. Her wallet probably would have preferred that she stay there.

More and more young people can’t afford New York or California anymore. Instead, they’re looking toward the Midwest because of its higher housing affordability.

Considering Rent.com puts the median monthly national rent at $1,964, Armacost’s $2,300 would be a fine monthly rent budget in most other American cities.

That being said, she might want to do some research, as high rent isn't an NYC-exclusive issue. San Jose, Boston and San Francisco aren’t too far off, with rents ranging from $3,795 to $3,631. So Gen Zers across the country may have trouble on either coast.

It’s not just young people facing this issue, though. Many nearing retirement face the same affordability crisis.New York because it’s one of the costliest metros to age in. Places in states such as Mississippi, Oklahoma or Alabama are much cheaper for post-retirement living.

Of course, for those not wanting to make a big cross-country move, there are other options. Commuter towns, or bedroom communities, have long been a less expensive option for those who want proximity to a big city but more affordable rent. One commenter on Armacost’s TikTok has a suggestion for her (and anyone else struggling with the high cost of living): go over to New Jersey.

The user, who goes by @jamais_vmin_ , says moving there was “the best decision ever” because they can afford a “huge” house with a garage and backyard for $1,700 a month. New York just isn’t “worth it anymore” for them.

“Secondary cities” also offer residents an alternative. These are smaller cities that are often cheaper than bigger metros, according to real estate analysis site Globe St. These include places like Seattle, Nashville and Las Vegas.

But Armacost continues to try to make it in the Big Apple. She posted a recent TikTok that she was selected for the New York City housing lottery, which offers affordable housing. So can she hack it? Only time will tell.

What to read next

Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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