Is it true that there's a housing shortage in NYC?
Yes! Definitely so, but that doesn't mean that housing is impossible to find in NYC. You can find it, but it means that rent often gets driven through the ceiling due to low supply and high demand. It also means more competition, so don't be surprise if you see listing for a place one minute, you request a viewing, and are informed its gone the next. In fact, that's why I set up a link to my RLS feed with a past 24 hours listing link. *Basically in order to be an effective apartment hunter, you pretty much need to be as close to the first person in line as possible, or at least the first to put in a successful application.
Assessing the Market
Note that NYC conducts a housing and vacancy survey once every three years. At the time of the last New York Housing and Vacancy Survey (taken right before the pandemic) there were about 3.6 million housing units in the city and the median rent was only $2000. The vacancy rate in the city was under 5% with only 5% of those available units offering rent under $2400. At the time that I'm the median rent for a NYC apartment is about $5000.
In other words, you may have plenty of friends who are only paying $2000 a month rent. The catch is that those apartments are off market because they're living in it, so everyone else is waiting in line for when their apartments come on market. If their apartments happen to be rent controlled or rent stabilized, statistically speaking, it's more likely that they'll be less likely to move any time soon.
What all of this boils down to is that when apartments come on market, it's likely that the prices will be inflated. Likewise, as long as they're being rented out at market value, it's first come / first serve and odds are they're going to go quickly.
So, how should you navigate the situation?
This leads to the question: Will the market come down any time soon? I would predict not any time soon, although some optimistic economists hope for some stabilization at best.
New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey (Initial Findings)
(latest / taken every three years)
*see conclusion on pg. 66!
Check out my latest NYC housing market report