Inside the Rent NYC

Meet the challenge of building rental housing in New York City


Game Created by CHPC.
Game Design & Development by Stephan Van Dam, Eamonn Fitzmaurice ©2015 VanDamMedia, Inc.
This game was made possible with funding from JPMorgan Chase & Co.


You are tasked with planning a rental building in New York City that will help to alleviate our chronic housing shortage. The rent charged for each apartment must sustain the construction and operating costs of the building through the first year.

Start the game by selecting the neighborhood for your building and the rent you think is achievable for a two-bedroom apartment there. If your target rent is too low to cover these costs, you may need to increase the rent in some apartments or turn to the government for help…

Good luck!

My Target Rent $0,000

Rent to Cover Costs $0,000

Astoria Bedford Stuyvesant Bushwick Downtown Brooklyn East Harlem East New York Harlem Jamaica Long Island City Lower East Side Morrisania Mott Haven Stapleton Williamsburg
  • Slide to choose a NYC neighborhood.

    Select one of these 14 neighborhoods from across the five boroughs. Your choice will determine the cost of land, which will affect the rent.

  • Slide to choose the rent for a two bedroom apartment

    Make sure you pick a target rent that is reasonable for a 800 square foot apartment in . If you choose a rent too low you may not be able to cover the building's costs. If you pick a rent too high it will be difficult to find tenants for the building.

  • Mid-rise

    Choose the building size.

    Mid-rise buildings (up to 12 stories) can use less expensive construction techniques than high-rises (13 or more stories).

  • No

    Will you pay prevailing wages for construction?

    Prevailing wage is one that is set by law for contractors doing work for government agencies. In New York City construction today, this is higher than a standard market wage.

  • Basic

    What type of building amenities will you have?

    You can select to include some extra amenities in the building beyond the basic services, like a doorman, a gym and a common terrace.

  • No

    Will you pay prevailing wages for maintenance?

    Prevailing wages are set by the government. In New York City prevailing wages are higher than standard market wages for maintenance staff like supers, doormen and handymen.


    The rent is too damn low!

    You successfully met your target rent paving the way for a financially viable building that will help to alleviate NYC’s housing shortage!

    Add in Subsidies
    Try Again
    Accept the Higher Rent
  • Select Subsidies

    Explore different subsidies that may help you meet your target rent.

    Accept the Higher Rent
  • Reject

    Subsidize half of building construction costs?

    You can ask the government to subsidize 50% of the construction costs. Be careful though, the City has limited funds which are necessary to provide other services and may have used all of its available subsidies today.

  • No

    Subsidize the cost of land?

    You can ask the government to subsidize 100% of the cost of land, or to give you public land for free. Be careful though, the City has limited funds which are necessary to provide other services and may have used all of its available subsidies today.

  • No

    Apply for a property tax abatement?

    The building will pay $0 in property taxes, and the City's budget will forego that revenue.

  • 80%

    Increase the rent in some apartments.

    You have the option of increasing the rent by (10%) in some apartments. This increase will be used to make the remaining apartments less expensive. In how many apartments are you willing to increase the rent?

Development Budget (per unit)
Land cost F3/80%
Construction costs F11/80%
Soft costs F13/80%
Land & construction subsidy ((F4+F10)/80%)
Total development cost F17/80%
Annual Operating Budget (per unit)
Debt service and ROI F21/80%
Operating expenses ((F24+F25+F26)/80%)
Vacancy factor F29/80%
Real estate taxes F32/80%
These figures are based on interviews with developers, appraisers, architects and underwriters, and are current as of 2015. For information on the model's assumptions visit

  • LAND
  • RENT