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NYC's Area Median Income Jumps 16% As Advocates Call For New Formula


New York City has lagged behind the country's economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession of 2020, but its federally determined area median income, the figure used to determine who is eligible for affordable housing, registered a 16% jump this year.

The new AMI is 34% higher than it was four years ago, a jump that affordable housing advocacy group New York Housing Conference called “wildly out of sync with the modest income increases experienced by renters,” in a new report.

AMI is used to determine which residents qualify for assisted housing programs like affordable units, Section 8 or Housing Choice Vouchers, but the increases risk excluding the most vulnerable New Yorkers, NYHC said in its report, which was first covered by Politico.

Median salaries for New Yorkers rose just 6% between 2017 and 2020. The new median income for AMI is $94,500 — compared to the $50K median income for renters, according to the report.

NYC’s housing shortage is making the problem more acute, NYHC said. Affordable housing production fell by 45% last year; meanwhile, some developers have been replacing multifamily buildings with luxury residential towers that contain fewer units than their predecessors.

There is a 0.86% vacancy rate for apartments renting at less than $900 per month, and a 0.93% vacancy rate for apartments at $1,500 per month, the report found. The lowest level AMI — “extremely low income” — is 30% AMI, which places rents in affordable units at more than $2,300. 

The city has long used federal AMI levels to determine eligibility for income-restricted units built with taxpayer support, but the NYHC argues the government should find a different metric to ensure more New Yorkers aren't precluded from housing because of incomes.

AMI’s lowest level — 30% of the fair market rent in the surrounding neighborhood — is $36,030 for a family of three in the NYC Metro area, according to the report. But one adult working a full-time minimum wage job would earn just $31,200 annually, NYHC found, placing one-parent minimum wage households below AMI’s lowest income threshold.

“While there has always been some disconnect between HUD AMI standards and the incomes of NYC renters, the current discrepancy represents a widening chasm that must be addressed in NYC’s affordable housing plan,” the NYHC report reads. “The housing crisis, with low vacancy rates and high-cost burdens, is most severely impacting New Yorkers with the lowest incomes.”