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Manhattan Week 2014: Population Growing Despite Ever-Increasing Rents

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As we kick off Manhattan Week on NY1, we take a look at the biggest challenge the borough is facing: While more people are moving in, many longtime residents are being forced out by skyrocketing rents. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

Manhattan is growing.

The latest estimates put the population at more than 1.6 million people, up slightly from the 2010 census.

Despite that rise, it's no secret that its becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable places to live in the borough.

"Local residents who have been there for decades simply can't afford—even middle class professionals—simply can't afford some of this housing," says Columbia Sociology Professor Van Tran.

According to NYU's Furman Center, in the last year alone, Manhattan lost nearly 3,000 rent-regulated apartments.

In many cases, those stabilized, often affordable homes are being replaced by "market rate" units.

From 2002 to 2012, the number of stabilized or controlled apartments in the borough plunged more than 19 percent. The number of "market" rate and ultimately significantly more expensive apartments soared more than 19 percent.

"Landlords have every incentive to raise rents as you renew your lease every year and that basically meant that one day eventually, I don't know when, people will be priced out," Tran says.

Borough President Gale Brewer says this isn't a new phenomenon, but that the "crisis," as she calls it, is spreading and it's tearing at the fabric of communities.

"Rent regulated means that you are going to stay in your community as a family, as individuals, as seniors and you're going to participate in the neighborhood. When you're in a market situation, as an individual or a family, you have to be constantly moving," Brewer says.

Case in point: since 2005, rents have risen 19 percent in Manhattan, the fastest in the city. Brewer says the focus needs to be on preserving rent regulated units where costs rise much slower.

Manhattan remains diverse.

Nearly 29 percent of the borough's population is foreign born, but experts say the wave of change could drive that number down even in traditionally immigrant neighborhoods.

"It doesn't happen all at once; what happens is that neighborhoods change in pieces," says City College of New York Sociology Professor William Helmreich.

That change is underway from Washington Heights all the way down to the Lower East Side.

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