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You’ve landed a great job in New York City—then the reality of the city’s housing market starts to sink in. It’s a situation that thousands of new city residents face every year. New York City’s cost of living, which continues to outpace most other cities across North America, can make a move to the city seem difficult and even impossible. In fact, even highly compensated professionals often balk at the idea of relocating due to the fact that it typically means radically adjusting one’s established standard of living. After all, most adults assume it is normal to have more than one closet and expect their kitchen to be large enough to accommodate more than one person at a time. This is why at least some local employers throw in the most coveted perk of all—free or at least steeply discounted housing.
Providing housing as part of one’s job is by no means a new trend. Historically, many professions came with housing and at least some professionals still do (e.g., the military and priesthood). However, even if you are not ready to devote yourself to a life of combat or godly devotion, there are a few jobs where housing benefits are included and some of this subsidized housing happens to be located in the city’s most expensive neighborhoods.
Subsidized and Free Housing for University Faculty
To be clear, not all local universities offer housing to faculty and even those who do have very specific criteria about who is eligible. If you’re teaching at The New School, for example, don’t ask about the faculty housing. Unless you happen to be the President (or occupy another executive position), housing is not a perk. On the other hand, if you manage to snag a full-time faculty position at NYU or Columbia University, you may be in luck. Both universities have ample housing stock for full-time permanent faculty. Priority, however, is given to new hires and especially to those arriving from outside the Tri-State area.
So, what can you expect to if you do manage to secure a job and subsidized apartment on a local university campus? At both NYU and Columbia, a certain amount of housing is set aside for faculty and their families at a discounted price in faculty-only buildings. Generally, this means that faculty are not expected to pay more than a third of their income on rent (notably, one’s neighbor may pay more or less for the same unit depending on their salary). Also, faculty don’t have to worry about paying their rent on time, since the university takes the money directly off one’s pay check. While this may sound a bit infantilizing, bear in mind that the pay back is a generously proportioned and affordable apartment in Manhattan. NYU has approximately 2100 apartments. Most are located in a series of high-rise buildings at Washington Square, which were designed under the direction of famed architect I.M. Pei in the 1960s. Columbia University has an even higher number of units—most located in pre-war buildings throughout the Morningside Heights neighborhood.
For faculty who want to live on campus without paying any rent, there is one more option. At NYU, for example, a small percentage of brave faculty live in apartments located in student dorms. In exchange for free rent, these faculty fellows in residence must commit to being on-call throughout the school year and available to respond to the types of crisis that arise in student dorms (e.g., reporting anxiety attacks and alcohol poisoning incidents). They must also participate in other on campus residential activities.
Subsidized housing for K-12 teachers
If becoming getting a Ph.D. and securing a full-time university teaching position in not part of your career plan, there are at least a few other options in the education sector. First, some private schools have limited housing stock for full-time teachers. The Brearley School on the Upper East Side, for example, owns a residential building on East 77thStreet and invites its new teachers to apply for housing. While intended to house new teachers for a limited time, some teachers stay in the school’s units for years, and reportedly the rent for one of the school’s small studio apartments carries attractive 1980s-era prices.
If you’re employed by the Department of Education (DOE), don’t expect to be offered a deeply subsidized apartment on the Upper East Side or anywhere else, but you still may be able to take advantage of one housing benefit. The City of New York continues to add more subsidized housing units and city employees, including those working as teachers for the DOE, are given priority in most housing lotteries. You can track the city’s latest housing lotteries right here on 6sqft.
Doctors and scientific researchers
Some institutions, including Rockefeller University on the Upper East Side, not only offer housing to its students and faculty members but to other members of the medical and scientific community. Scholar’s Residence, located at 504 East 63rd Street, for example, is home to a high percentage of doctors and scientists who primarily work at local hospitals, laboratories, and research centers. The building, which is has a family friendly vibe includes three children’s play rooms, a reading room, and music practice room. However, Scholar’s Residence is just one of the many Rockefeller University buildings open to members of the scientific community. In addition, at least some local hospitals, including Mount Sinai, offer housing, specifically to resident doctors.
Tech sector housing perks
Most jobs with housing benefits are in sectors that offer essential services (e.g., education and medicine). However, there are at least a few exceptions. In January, Audible—Amazon’s rapidly growing audio division—announced a housing lottery for its employees. The company offered to give 20 employees a chance to get $2,000 a month in free rent for a year if they signed a two-year lease in a recently restored building in downtown Newark. Of the company’s 1000 employees, 64 applied and the lucky winners are now paying less than $500 a month to live in apartments that are substantially larger than their former homes in places like Brooklyn and Manhattan. In the case of Audible, however, the housing benefit is not a permanent fix (eventually the lottery winners will have to pay market rent) and the initiative was rolled out in an attempt to move the company’s employees closer to Audible’s Newark headquarters rather than as a way to attract and retain new employees.
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