Brooklyn Rental Market: Supply is Up, Prices are Steady... But is it Family-friendly?

Published on Mar 13, 2012

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Another week, another blast of news and notes about the exploding Brooklyn rental market. First, a bit of good news for anyone considering a Brooklyn rental apartment: prices overall actually went DOWN in the month of January!

OK, I'm talking the average price here, and of all Brooklyn rental apartments on the market, and it was only by about ten bucks... so if you're looking in the hottest of the hot spots, those December-to-January decreases are unlikely to have much effect on the rents you're seeing.

And (one more qualifier), prices of Brooklyn rental apartments did in fact rise year-over-year, with an average of, for example, $2,128 per month being asked in January of 2011 for a Brooklyn one-bedroom, as opposed to $2,300 in January of 2012, and increase of slightly more than 8%. Two-bedroom Brooklyn rental apartments rose even more since last year, from $2,663 to $2,975, or an increase of almost 12%. BUT, the price of a studio in Brooklyn is virtually flat from January '11 to January '12 ($1,681 versus $1,698), and these days, that's what you'd call a bargain.

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So what's driving this good news/bad news about the Brooklyn rental market? Here's the thing: all of those sparkling new Brooklyn luxury rental towers that went up in, especially, Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn these past couple of years? Turns out the developers didn't anticipate the attraction these neighborhoods would have for families.

In fact, just 13% of the housing inventory in Williamsburg right now is larger than 1,500 square feet, which is about what you'd want for a not-cramped, appealing two-bedroom. In Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn, two other neighborhoods that are increasingly being considered by families seeking something bigger than they can find in Manhattan, the numbers are even worse: according to the the real estate company MNS (and reported in the Wall Street Journal), a mere 7% of available inventory hits the 1,500 square-foot mark.

As a comparison, in that classic New York City family neighborhood, the Upper West Side, nearly two-thirds of inventory is 1,500 square feet or more. So while there's a hefty amount of studios and smaller "young single professional" apartments available in these neighborhoods, the demand for family-sized units far outstrips the supply right now.

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The relative lack of family-sized apartments may actually be a blessing in disguise for the current residents, and the Brooklyn rental market as a whole, at least in the Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene area. As Dennis Holt points out in his Brooklyn Eagle column recently, an astonishing 7,362 new residential units are currently in development in the two-square-mile area from "core" Downtown Brooklyn up Atlantic Avenue and into Fort Greene, including the 52-story luxury Brooklyn rental tower The Hub, details of which the Steiner brothers revealed earlier this month.

If you consider only these new buildings, that's still a population increase in the area of between 15,000 and 20,000 people within the next five years. Yes, the neighborhood has seen an enviable uptick in new store and restaurants openings, which will only increase when the Barclays Center--home of the relocating, NBA Brooklyn Nets--opens up next fall, and as a transportion center, the area can't be beat (just about every subway line stops within a few blocks of wherever you are).

But with its narrow streets, narrow sidewalks, and an infrastructure (water pipes, phone and gas lines) built for a much more intimate community, not to mention the strain such an influx will place on the area's public schools, it remains to be seen whether they can pull off the transformation in a way that appeals to all.

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