Inflation has caused a spike in seemingly every necessity in daily life, including gas and groceries. With the rising price of goods, Queens residents are also finding it hard to pay their housing costs.
Tenzing Tsering rents a house in Jackson Heights, but worries he will lose his house since his business is struggling and inflation has completely curtailed his budget.
“We have to think first before we buy or take a step,” Tsering said. “Inflation has affected my family budget a lot. If we don’t pay rent, we will have to leave the house, and if we pay rent we have to reduce all our daily needs. It’s very difficult.”
Luckily, Tsering said that his rent has not increased, although he had great difficulty paying once his business, Punda Tibetan Restaurant, lost 75% of its revenue during the pandemic.
Rent costs rose 0.4% in December, according to a New York Times report, which can be credited to a number of factors that contribute to rising housing costs, like supply chain issues and labor shortages.
According to White House data, supply issues have driven up the cost of home construction resulting in a hike in housing prices. The cost of lumber increased 114% over the 12 months since May 2021— the highest recorded 12-month growth. The price of iron and steel also increased by 73% over the past year.
Carlos Pereyra, a homeowner in Ridgewood and owner of Carper Home Improvements, said that the price of supplies for his business has gone up about 30% or 40%.
“Business is pretty slow, the prices of things keep going up but I have to keep my prices the same,” Pereyra said. “We pay the mortgage but I was very close to losing the house. Living is expensive, I’m trying to save money for the mortgage but everything is expensive. Not much room for anything but we still get by. I am just waiting for everything to get better but there’s nothing else we can do.”
Another business owner in Glendale, Berangere Champagne, who owns Qwik Pack and Ship, agreed that the increase in prices has made it hard to keep up with her bills. Champagne said that she has had no option but to raise her prices, which in turn made her lose some customers.
“Costs of materials have gone up, which slows us down big time,” Champagne said. “It’s a fight as a small business. It’s a real struggle.”
Fortunately, Champagne said that her husband is able to make up for any profit losses and pay their mortgage for their home in Ridgewood. But Champagne is worried about being able to afford the rent of her business space.
“I’m very scared to lose my business we’re feeling the hit right now,” Champagne said. “Right now, we’re not making any profit. And at some point, if prices still are getting higher, we can’t keep raising our prices because we’ll lose our customer base. There’s a limit to what we can take.”
Champagne is resilient and said that despite everything, she hopes she can stay in Ridgewood to provide shipping services for her community. Not many are as fortunate as Champagne and do not have someone to fall back on to pay for housing costs. Sandy Jimenez, who rents an apartment in Sunnyside, said that inflation has forced her to make a strict budget to keep up with rent.
“It has been hard,” Jimenez said. “Especially with everyone being at home, food became really expensive for us. My partner also lost his job at the start of the pandemic. We had a really hard time making ends meet.”
Jimenez said she was forced to apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which provides economic relief to help low- and moderate-income households at risk of losing their housing. ERAP has helped over 100,000 households across the state as of March 1, estimating about $2 billion in assistance. According to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), nearly 40,000 prospective rent applications were submitted in Queens, with the highest amount of applications from Corona.
Queens residents are on the verge of losing their housing or businesses due to the rising costs affiliated with inflation. Many said, with fear in their voice, that if things don’t change soon, they will lose a lot by next year.