photo of apartment housing in Brooklyn

Because of COVID-19, NYC and LA Are Seeing Their Housing Problem Get Worse

People once flocked to these two big cities, but faced with the pandemic, job losses and increasing costs of living, residents are now fleeing these American metropolises.
September 28, 2020
7 mins read

Moving boxes everywhere. Residents leaving in droves. The year 2020 has been chaotic for us all and it just got even crazier.

The Big Apple and the City of Angels are facing another challenge: a housing crisis. Los Angeles and New York City residents are moving out and moving out fast.

As many residents have lost their jobs, can no longer afford to live in their homes and want to avoid living on top of other people, the two biggest cities in the United States are in the mayhem.

Here is what has happened so far and what experts expect to happen next.

The Housing Situation

In March 2020, there was a 256% increase in residents leaving New York City compared to last year.

“Overall since March, more than 246,000 people have filed a change of address request. That’s an almost 100% increase compared to the same time period in 2019,” said an ABC news article.

After thousands of fellow New Yorkers died from COVID-19, NYC residents who have called the city home for many years made a getaway.

In Los Angeles, homelessness has grown exponentially since the pandemic. In neighborhoods such as Venice Beach, rows of tents have visibly increased on once affluent residential streets.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city has seen a 16.1% increase in homelessness to over 41,000 people.

As the residents moved out of their beloved homes, a new crisis emerged. Moving companies in New York City became so busy that they even turned people away.

Moon Salahie, owner of Elite Moving & Storing in Yonkers, has not stopped moving people out of their homes since NYC began Phase 1 of their reopening plan in June.

“People are fleeing the city in droves,” said Salahie. “The least movement would be the Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue crowds. Those people don’t have to leave because they have second homes.”

So where exactly are renters and homeowners fleeing to and which cities need to gear up for a new influx of residents?

Where Are They Going?

New Yorkers fled for the suburbs, their childhood homes or anywhere they could find a place to rest their head. In the New York suburbs, prices increased as housing inventory decreased.

Amanda Saracano, a realtor with Keller Williams Realty Group, said that the demand began when people sought temporary housing away from the city, but many have since decided to remain away from it all.

“It’s now just on steroids almost,” Saracano said. “Rentals, rentals, rentals, all of the rentals were gone… and that quickly turned, once they disappeared, into sales.”

According to the Hartford Courant, 16,000 New Yorkers changed their addresses to Connecticut from March through June.

United Van Lines and Mayflower Movers also reported that they have done 1,000 out-of-state moves from New York City since March. Twenty-eight percent of those moves have been to Florida and California and 16% have been to Texas and North Carolina.

For Angelenos, many of them have decided to move to Texas, including comedian Joe Rogan. The high-profile resident told Sky News that overcrowding, traffic and homelessness were the driving factors.

Moving companies in the LA area have also been working overtime. Moving companies in California in general have seen increased demand, particularly from people moving out of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

What do residents have to say?

Many city residents reported that they felt incredibly unsafe and with NYC being the center of the pandemic at one point and Los Angeles currently being the epicenter hasn’t helped much either.

New Yorker Jana Ernakovich moved to New Hampshire temporarily when the pandemic began.

“It was pretty surreal, and I feel like I absconded in the middle of the night because that’s kind of what I did,” Ernakovich said. “Back then, it was really scary and I just couldn’t be there.”

Casey Madden, a former New York City resident, decided to move in with her family in Long Island then later moved to Tampa, Florida, with her boyfriend.

“All of the things I loved about New York City kind of just disappeared because of COVID,” said Madden.

However, she is hopeful that 2021 will bring new beginnings.

“We hope by the New Year, there will be clarity of what’s going on and what state is safe to live in,” Madden said.

In Los Angeles, the story is similar.

Kerstin, a former LA resident, said in a post online: “We’ve just left LA and moved to Ojai because things in the city became unbearable for us.”

The British expat wrote, “We have quite a few people in our circle of friends who are either leaving L.A. because of COVID or planning on it. Homelessness is out of control and the inequality that exists in the city is more visible than ever.”

Many experts say that this housing crisis was inevitable. As homes and apartments increase in price and residents can no longer afford rent, the migration out of major cities has already begun.

However, the pandemic has magnified the housing problem.

Though this situation may not be permanent, the allure of a big city has begun to lose its luster for many individuals. Those who have lived in New York and Los Angeles for many years still see the attraction but “gentrifiers,” as they are often called, are realizing that their beloved cities are no longer for them.

Abigail Adeleke, University of Miami

Writer Profile

Abigail Adeleke

University of Miami
Journalism and Psychology

Abigail Adeleke is a Journalism and Psychology major at the University of Miami. The rising senior is the Student Government President, has a passion for photography, and is obsessed with the hit TV show “Psych.”

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