More than most places, New York is a city of housing haves and have-nots. For many of its residents, long-term tenure in rent-regulated apartments provides a secure and affordable lifestyle, while for those who purchased their homes in a less expensive era, subsequent price appreciation has been a major generator of personal wealth. For young people, newcomers to the city, and others entering the housing market, however, the situation is much different. They face a marketplace that has changed radically over the past decade, and are confronted with housing choices that are far less favorable.

Data on current market conditions are hard to come by. Only a small portion of available apartments are listed in the classified sections of the major newspapers, and the citys realtors do not participate in a multiple listing service from which asking rents can be easily tabulated. Several private firms track market rents in prime districts of Manhattan, but those surveys are not representative of citywide market conditions. As a result, many public and private housing decisions are based on anecdotal market information.

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