Affordability Index

  • Can a representative NYC household afford a basic lifestyle in the city?
  • What share of income do certain types of households have remaining after paying for basic needs?
  • Has affordability improved or worsened over time?
June 5, 2018

Interactive Chart View Complete Dataset


Understanding and tackling New York City’s escalating affordability crisis is one of our most important priorities. That’s why we created the NYC Affordability Index.

With this new tool, the office of New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer sought to address three key questions about the affordability of New York City:

  1. Can typical New York City households afford a basic lifestyle in the city?  What does it cost to get New Yorkers through the day – to pay the rent, put food on the table, get to and from work, and provide healthcare and childcare for one’s family?
  2. After paying for basic, day-to-day needs, how much income do households have left over for the future?  The ability to provide for the future of oneself and one’s family and to enjoy a decent quality of life depends on what remains after meeting the basics.
  3. Has affordability improved or worsened over time?  As the cost of basic necessities has risen, have incomes kept pace for average families?

The answers to these questions are critical to understanding the strain of declining affordability on New Yorkers and their families.

General Structure

  • A positive index number indicates that the household has surplus income after paying for basic expenses. Surplus income can be used for savings (wealth creation), higher consumption (“luxury” items), private education, discretionary travel, and emergencies.
  • A negative index number indicates that the household cannot afford basic expenses and must make alternative consumption choices to scale back their costs.

Selection of Household Types

The Index will calculate a basic budget for four household types (2016 middle income in parentheses):

  1. Single Adult Household ($50,000)
  2. Single Parent, Two Children Household ($41,000)
  3. Married Couple ($106,000)
  4. Married Couple, Two Children Household ($97,000)

Assumes adults are working age (18-65) and children are minors (under 18). In households with children, one child is school age and one is an infant.

Note: Middle income defined by average incomes of 40-60th percentile of income distribution

Basic Budget Components

The following basic expenses make up about 70% of average household spending in the NY Metro and are included in the Index:

  1. Rent and Utilities
  2. Food
  3. Transportation
  4. Health Care
  5. Child Care
  6. Other Necessities (clothing, personal care, household products)

Average Annual Consumer Expenditures, NY Metro, 2015 – 2016

Excluded Budget Components

Government Assistance

  • Food assistance (SNAP)
  • Medicaid/CHIP
  • Section 8

Discretionary items

  • Entertainment
  • Retirement contributions
  • Vacations


  • Education (e.g. college tuition, private school)
  • Emergencies
  • Large capital purchases (e.g. vehicles)
  • Cable TV, phone, internet, cell phone
  • Loan payments

Affordability Index: 2005, 2010 and 2016

Share of Income Remaining After Taxes and Basic Expenses

Interactive Affordability Index

Monthly Basic Budget (2016)

Index Results (2005 - 2016)