Queens living costs fifth highest in U.S.

By Karen Frantz

Queens ranks as one of the top five most expensive urban areas in the country as detailed by a City Council report on the city’s middle class released this month.

The Council report, titled the “Middle Class Squeeze,” investigated how the city’s middle class has fared since 1989. It found that the middle class is shrinking as a percentage of New York City’s total population.

The report was highlighted by Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) in her State of the City address this week.

“We need to make sure that the people who want to stay in our great city can afford to stay here,” she said Monday. “We have no greater challenge or obligation to the families we represent than to tackle this problem head-on and deliver results. The future of our city depends on it.”

According to 2011 figures from the Council for Community and Economic Research cited in the Council study, the cost of living in Queens is 54 percent higher than the national average. It comes in after only Manhattan, Brooklyn, Honolulu and San Francisco as urban areas having the country’s highest costs of living.

Housing costs also makes up the major part of the cost of living in Queens, with housing costs 2 1/2 times higher than the national average, the report said. The borough is ranked seventh out of 300 U.S. metropolitan areas for high housing costs.

But Queens is still far less expensive than Manhattan, whose cost of living is 123 parent higher than the national average, and Brooklyn, where the cost is 85 percent higher. The cost of living in Queens is also only modestly higher than other urban areas such as San Jose, Calif.; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Washington, D.C.

Quinn sought to address problems besieging the city’s middle class, such as high housing costs, in her State of the City address.

She proposed the construction of 40,000 new affordable housing units for people with middle incomes over the next 10 years, an undertaking that she said would be the largest construction project of its kind in decades.

She also suggested offering property tax caps for buildings with high-end market rate units that agree to set aside a number of units for affordable housing.

“We will not allow middle-class families to get priced out of the neighborhoods they helped build,” Quinn said. “We will keep New York City what it has always been — a place where opportunity is given, not just to those who can afford to buy it, but to those willing to work for it.”

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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