State of the Brooklyn rent, April 2016: What’s causing rent increases this month?

Our sentiments exactly. kl801 / Flickr

Our sentiments exactly. via Flickr user kl801

As is customary around this time every month, Brokelyn has the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the sad state of affairs of Brooklyn real estate. This isn’t like all those other times we presented the sad state of affairs though. This time, we’re turning away from market data and toward the people’s record. We’ve put together a thoroughly oral history of rent increases upon lease turnover. We polled friends, colleagues and strangers, and we’ve come out with a few reasonable conclusions about why the rent is going up. Warning: results are depressing, to say the least. Once you get a sense of just how your own bum deal estate stacks up against the folks we spoke to, make sure to let us know about your rent woes in the comments section.

(This is the inaugural installment of a recurring real estate series we’re running on the first of every month.)

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Because nearby highrise = imminent rent rise. Sam Corbin / Brokelyn

Because nearby highrise = imminent rent rise. Sam Corbin/Brokelyn

“Because my neighborhood is blowing up”
A yearly increase on the lease is to be expected by virtue of increased market value in gentrifying neighborhoods. Like it or not, here’s what some renters had to say about watching their rent go up over the years in “cool” neighborhoods.

ISAAC, a mechanical engineer in Crown Heights

Apartment type: 4 bedroom, 1.5 bath
Most recent increase: (room only) $665 to $725 — a 9 percent increase
Why it makes sense: “Crown Heights is blowing up.”
Why it sucks: “No improvements to speak of made.”

MELISSA, a marketing coordinator in Crown Heights

Apartment type: 2 bedroom
Most recent increase: $2200 to $2300 — a 4.5 percent increase
Why it makes sense: “The neighborhood is being rapidly gentrified.”
Why it sucks: “Our creepy handyman never returned to fix our bathroom after I turned down his dinner date offer.”

GABRIELLE, a content manager in Williamsburg

Apartment type: 3 bedroom
Most recent increase: $3300 to $3500 — a 6 percent increase
Why it makes sense: “Williamsburg.”
Why it sucks: “The L-pocalypse this summer.”

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Rent just magically increases on brownstones! Madelyn Owens / Brokelyn

Rent just magically increases on brownstones! Madelyn Owens / Brokelyn

“Because even though no one has explained why it happens, at least it happens every year”
For many of us renting an apartment that isn’t stabilized (or being screwed out of one that is), a yearly increase is to be expected because it’s just the price of continuing to enjoy your stoop, your front door, and a working furnace. “Isn’t all that stuff what we pay rent for already?” remarked Chris, one of the renters we spoke to. “It’s not like the value of the apartment just innately increases $50 a year.” Wrong, Chris! Rent is like a savings account! The less you pay attention to it, the more it goes up.

MADDIE, a graphic designer in Crown Heights

Apartment type: 3 bedroom
Most recent increase: $3,180 to $3,270 — a 2.8 percent increase
Why it makes sense: “We’ve lived in the place for four years and the rent has raised about $90 each year. It’s pretty reasonable between three people, $30 each.”
Why it sucks: “The apartment was already on the higher rent side when we rented it, at $3,000 in 2012. And the landlord hasn’t made any great improvements in the meantime.”

ANDREA*, a writer/editor in Greenpoint 

Apartment type: 1 bedroom
Most recent increase: $1,400 to $1,475 — a 5 percent increase
Why it makes sense: “Every year it goes up $25-75 at the same time, ‘due to increased costs.'”
Why it sucks: “My apartment is basically an office space with a faulty stove on top of an oil spill.”

BRUCE*, a comedian in Sunset Park

Apartment type: 2 bedroom
Most recent increase: $1500 in 2012, $1600/month in 2014, $1700/month in 2015, going up to $1800/month in May
Why it makes sense: “The neighborhood has been getting more popular over the years.”
Why it sucks: “My landlord does that really cool trick where they value the apartment at an obscene million-dollar listing price per month, but then gives us ‘preferential rent’ that can be adjusted at their whim.”

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This is still your front yard. but this year it seems somhow... Keats-ian. Bonnie Natko / Flickr

This is still your front yard. but this year it seems somhow… Keats-ian. Bonnie Natko / Flickr

“Because I am supposed to be more grateful to live in the same terrible apartment than I was last year”
When you think about the fact that you’re renting and not buying, it’s dumb to expect improvements on a space that by definition isn’t yours. Aesthetic deficiencies like a junk-filled backyard, or a door that doesn’t lock, are the kind of things you’re quite literally signing up for when your name goes on the lease. And isn’t it just like the old saying, asbestos makes the heart grow fonder? These renters’ landlords certainly thought so. 

SAM, a bike messenger in Bed-Stuy

Apartment type: 4 bedroom, ground floor with basement
Most recent increase: $2,900 to $3,000 — a 3.4 percent increase
Why it makes sense: “The apartment is huge with a full basement and backyard access.”
Why it sucks: “There is no insulation in the walls, no closets, and it’s clearly a commercial space. I doubt it is zoned for residential living. Also, the backyard is teeming with rats. Literally teeming. They don’t even run away when you come outside. They just sit there and chill.”

NATALIE*, a freelance journalist in Greenpoint

Apartment type: 3 bedroom
Rent increase: $3,000 to $3,075 — a 2.5 percent increase 
Why it makes sense: “The management company repaired a rusty fence bordering our back patio area. Read: we have a back patio area in Williamsburg.”
Why it sucks: “They didn’t repair the front door, which doesn’t lock. Or replace the filthy, torn up carpet in the first floor hallway. Or answer any of my calls for the past three years.”

CURTIS*, a freelancer in Crown Heights

Apartment type: 3-bedroom
Rent increase:
 $2,500 to $2,700 — an 8 percent increase
Why it makes sense (to my landlord):
 “‘I felt like raising the rent. You should be grateful for what you pay now.’ Actual quote.” 
Why it sucks:
 “The landlord refuses to fix any and all problems in the apartment.”

Maybe you’ve gained a little perspective from reading through this grim state of affairs. But hopefully, you haven’t. Did your rent go up recently? Was the reason as bogus as any of the above? Let us know your stats in the comments section (to be analyzed and released as part of our next quarterly review)!

*Names have been changed. 

2 Comment

  • 1br at Eastern Pkwy/Kingston in Crown Heights. $1222.75. Rent stabilized, so going up 0% in July because that’s what the rent board gave us this year, thank fuck. Was $1100 in 2011 when I first moved in.

    My gross linoleum tile floors are starting to peel & the plaster on the walls has cracked from the building shaking when they were doing construction in the basement a couple years ago. About 50-50 chance of the super even showing up when he says he going to come fix something.

  • the last time my rent went up at my Boerum Hill 4-BR apartment, it only went up $70 — but we had a laissez faire relationship with the landlord, where he basically stayed hands off on the decrepit old building and we were on our own to fix shit. That wasn’t such a bad arrangement actually, but the next year our rent went up $0, because we were kicked out at the end of the lease. The apartment appeared on real estate sites soon after for a way higher rent.