7 On Your Side Investigates: NYC's pandemic exodus ending could push rents even higher

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Thursday, June 30, 2022
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7 On Your Side Investigates is tracking a reversal of the COVID-19 pandemic exodus New York City started experiencing in March of 2020. Dan Krauth has the latest information.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- 7 On Your Side Investigates is tracking a reversal of the COVID-19 pandemic exodus New York City started experiencing in March of 2020.

People are moving back to New York City in greater numbers than they did before the pandemic. Plus, with rental prices at an all-time high, the prices could get even worse before they get any better.

Back in March of 2020, so many people moved out of the Big Apple that moving companies had to turn customers away.

Hundreds of thousands of families moved out of the city.

But if you're looking for a new place to live in Manhattan now, it can be a challenge.

How many people are coming and going from each zip code:

Cellist Elad Kabilio had to find a new apartment this year and lost one right after another.

The process is so painful," he said. "I miss the good 'ole days of 2008, where I paid like a grand for a beautiful apartment."

When he finally found a studio apartment near work on the Upper West Side that was available, he found something else -- an increase in price.

"Everything was so much more expensive than what they had before," he said. "Now I'm paying a grand more. It's a huge difference, and it changed my life."

People are once again moving back in slightly higher numbers than before the pandemic.

In 2019, more than 510,000 people filed a change of address form with the USPS to move to the city. Last year, that number was up to more than 546,000.

The bleeding has stopped, but the numbers also show more people are moving out than moving in.

Senior Economist Barbara Byrne Denham, of Oxford Economics, says that has always been the case.

"There's been a tremendous return to New York City," she said, adding that numbers don't account for several factors, including people moving to the city from outside the country.

"Rent growth doesn't go up to $4,000 in a couple of years when people are moving out, so people are still living here, and people are still moving here at a very aggressive rate," she said.

Denham said the local economy is rebounding more quickly than expected, but it still hasn't reached pre-pandemic levels.

But with the recent hike in interest rates, fewer people can afford to buy an apartment. So while the city has hit new rental price records, some economists say prices could continue to get even higher.

"When fewer people buy homes, more people rent, which means the demand for apartments goes up," Denham said. "And so does the price."

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