In 2020, three times as many New York City residents moved away as in recent, pre-pandemic years, per the New York Times. Then, in 2021, Manhattan lost 6.9% of its population, according to NBC and the US Census Bureau. This was the largest loss of population amongst any major U.S. county that year. These drastic declines led some to ominously declare, “The era of the big city has, yet again, run its course.”
However, it seems this trend is already reversing. According to a recent report by Placer (heard via Patch), Manhattan’s population is now 4% higher than it was in 2018. What’s more, it’s the only borough to experience an overall increase during that period. This is due to an influx of people returning or first moving into the city, beginning as early as the summer of 2020. Per Placer, “After two years of social distancing, many people may be looking for more opportunities to get out of the house and spend time with friends;” and Manhattan offers ample opportunities to do just that.
Leading this boom is the Upper West Side, which has seen a population increase of 30% between November 2019 and October 2022. The increase in popularity has led to a proportionate increase in housing costs, with the median price of sales rising 8% as of May 2022. Rents have also skyrocketed. After dropping 20% in 2020, by 2022 the median asking rent in the UWS had shot back up by 40%, effectively doubling the average pre-pandemic rent. As of July 2022, almost 44% of the units available to rent in Manhattan had entered the market due to the previous tenants being priced out by large increases on 2020 and 2021 “Covid discount[s].”
As people continue to move into the Upper West Side, it seems likely that rent and sale costs will continue their upward trend. Eric Adams announced a plan to address New York City’s affordable housing crisis late last year, focused on expediting the approval process for new buildings. In reference to his plan, Mayor Adams said, “It’s not complicated. We have more people than homes.”