The Center for an Urban Future confirms our feeling that as New York has grown friendlier to the rich, it has become less friendly to anyone else. Its latest report shows that as of last fall, “10.6 percent of all housing in the New York City region was affordable to people earning the median income for the area,” and the average effective rent — and this includes all boroughs — is $2,801, three times the national average and higher than even San Francisco’s. We’re second in the nation in electricity costs (congratulations, Hawaii!), and fourth in phone bills and milk prices; our cost of living is twice the national average. Also, our commutes are long and our schools are lousy.
So though we make more money on average than folks in Butte and Boise, says the Center, “it is doubtful that any New York household that earns even $60,000 per year enjoys a quality of life that remotely approaches what we typically imagine as ‘middle class.'” In fact, they put the qualifying figure at $123,322. As poverty increases and the rich eat of more of what’s left of the pie, ours is increasingly an “hourglass economy” — fat on the top and bottom, squeezed in the middle. To improve the situation, the Center calls for New York to “diversify” its economy, by means including the return of manufacturing, which has been one of the Center’s themes, and other prescriptions (e.g., “Increase the stock of housing that is affordable to the middle class”) that are, alas, but a fond hope under our current leadership.