Twenty or 30 years ago you were in Brooklyn because you couldn't afford rents in Manhattan. In the early 2000s, the district started catching up with its more expensive neighbor. A new generation of residents moved in, a sports arena was in the works and many new developments were rising – along with rents.
"After the financial crisis, Brooklyn moved from being a cheaper alternative to Manhattan to something new," said Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel, the valuation firm. "The Brooklyn brand went global."
Mr. Miller provided data for this week's chart showing the narrowing gap in the median rent for new leases in the two boroughs. In February 2009, the median rent in Brooklyn was $ 1,465 cheaper than Manhattan. Four years later, the gap was only $ 600. Brooklyn was booming, with many renters being evicted from Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Park Slope to neighborhoods like Bushwick, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and Sunset Park.
By February 2014, the borough's median rent gap had decreased to $ 210. The following year, rents in Manhattan rose to $ 777 due to the redevelopment. "In terms of the new development, Manhattan was condominium and the other boroughs were rented," said Mr. Miller. "But the condos were heavily focused on investor units, adding many $ 10,000-20,000 worth of rental units to the market that skewed rents in Manhattan."
After 2015, rents grew slowly in both boroughs and the gap between them narrowed, averaging $ 534 by 2019. Then the pandemic changed everything. Record vacancies in Manhattan reduced asking prices, and the gap shrank to $ 171 by November 2020, the smallest since Mr. Miller's follow-up began in 2008. It has grown somewhat in the months since then, but the coronavirus has changed the playing field dramatically .
"My crystal ball is held together with gray tape," joked Mr. Miller. "An unusually high number of leases have been signed in both districts since autumn. This is a small step in prices, which are gradually starting to stabilize."
However, the future of the New York rental market and work at home remains difficult to predict. "When Covid is resolved," he said, "hopefully with a favorable result, there will still be Zoom."