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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New York's Boroughs Pay More for Housing

NEW YORK -- The Bronx and Brooklyn emerged from the last decade with a dubious distinction: According to an analysis of recent U.S. census data, more homeowners in those two New York boroughs spend more of their income on housing than people anywhere else in the United States.

The Bronx and Brooklyn jumped to the top of the list of U.S. counties ranked by the percentage of certain single-family homeowners spending at least 35 percent of their income on housing.

Along with Hudson County, New Jersey, Miami-Dade County , Florida, and Queens, New York, they edged out a half-dozen California coastal counties that had led the list in 1990.

The New Yorkers laying down such a large chunk of their income to live in the city are not lawyers and doctors in co-ops juggling maintenance and private school tuition.

They are lower- and moderate-income people, many of them struggling to make mortgage payments on modest single-family houses in neighborhoods like Melrose in the Bronx, Canarsie in Brooklyn and Jamaica in Queens.

The census tracts with the highest percentages of homeowners spending at least 35 percent of their income on housing include wide swaths of brick row houses embroidered with white wrought-iron window guards and railings, and busy commercial districts where the rare single-family home, sheathed in pastel aluminum siding, huddles between apartment buildings and vacant lots.

"No, I don't think I'm getting my money's worth," said Natasha Guirand, a 30-year-old financial services worker and single mother.

Guirand is spending 40 percent of her income on her newly bought house: a small, three-bedroom, semi-detached with a compact backyard on a tree-lined Brooklyn street, just a half-hour's trip from her office.

"But as my mom always says, 'You pay for your convenience,'" she said.

Traditionally, lenders believed homeowners should spend no more than 28 percent of their income on mortgage payments in order to reduce the risk of delinquency and default.

Though that rule of thumb has relaxed somewhat in recent years, spending more than 35 percent on mortgage payments, taxes and fuel is considered a heavy burden, especially for lower-income people.

The surge in the New York numbers came in a decade when home values soared and home ownership in the city rose but the median household income in every borough but Manhattan declined, according to the 2000 census.

It also followed a successful push by the federal government to increase ownership among lower-income people who would not have qualified in the past.