Monday, January 28, 2019

New York Post: NYC is the most financially distressed city in the nation

By John Aidan Byrne

New York City is officially the most financially distressed metropolis in America, according to local debt counselors and financial analysts.

The city’s credit card delinquency rates and level of bad personal debt are the highest in the nation, which saw household debt and credit soar by $219 billion, or 1.6 percent, to $13.51 trillion, in the third quarter of 2018 — a record $837 billion more than its previous peak in 2008.

Facing an environment of mounting personal bankruptcies and financial meltdowns, unprecedented numbers of local residents are just one paycheck away from total monetary disaster.

The latest surge in toxic debt is blowing a huge hole in New Yorkers’ personal finances, these experts say. Forty percent of Americans recently said they could not cover a $400 emergency — and that proportion may be even higher in New York City, analysts say.

“It’s really bad right now,” Kelly Figueroa, a consumer debt counselor in New York at GreenPath, a national nonprofit, told The Post.

“Like the rest of the nation, most New Yorkers are living paycheck to paycheck,” she added. “But in New York, the situation is even worse because of the city’s higher — and rising — cost of living.”

From low-income to highly paid consumers, Kelly says, local clients’ unsecured distressed household debt ranges from an average of $20,000 per individual to as high as $100,000.

Credit card debt troubles in particular have jumped in New York City, from 30 percent of client caseloads at GreenPath to 40 percent in the past few years, even as housing and mortgage stress cases stemming from the financial crisis have ebbed.

New York City is now its No. 1 metro market, followed by Atlanta and Los Angeles, as measured by the sheer volume of distressed consumers seeking assistance and relief, according to Money Management International, a nationwide credit-counseling network.

“New York has the second-most expensive housing market in the US; rents are rising along with interest rates and credit card and other debt, including auto loans,” said Thomas Nitzsche, a consumer debt expert at Money Management International, citing some of the nonprofit’s latest findings.

A large population with average wages well above the national average — and a low unemployment rate — can give residents the courage to take on large credit card balances and debt, analysts say.

However, since 2010, rents in New York City overall have jumped 31 percent — and even as much as 45 percent in some neighborhoods, according to the StreetEasy Rent Index in late 2018.

This may explain why many city consumers are sinking in card and other debt, say analysts.

A New York Fed study shows average credit card balances alone in Manhattan hit $7,400 by 2016, compared with the nation’s $5,400.

Credit card delinquency rates for holders 90 days late on payments reached a stunning 15.1 percent for the Bronx and nearly 10 percent citywide, compared with 8.3 percent nationwide.

Analysts figure those balances and delinquency rates have since ticked up further in New York.

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