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NYC's Cheapest Apartment Rentals | The $55 Dream Apartment

July 05, 2012

We've already shown you the most expensive apartment rentals in NYC; on the other end of the spectrum, how about checking out the least expensive apartments? You'll be surprised at how low they go, and more importantly, how much space their occupants get for the buck. A little thing called rent control and a few missed legal documents thirty years in the past have given these two owners the rent of a lifetime in the heart of Manhattan.

2. $71.23 / Month | Tom Combs, Elizabeth Street

Honestly, we could write an entire article on Tom Combs himself. Combs, a retired military meteorologist in his 70s, lives off his pension from the Air Force in this spectacularly cheap apartment. With the recent changes in New York's marriage laws, he's looking to bring over a former lover from Nepal seeking asylum. Also, he's a published poet, working with William Carlos Williams. Also, he works as a nude model in his free time. As quoted from the New York Post, he states, "They tell me I’m so good at it, I feel I have a duty to do it."

Most Interesting Man Cheapest Apartments

However, this fascinating life story is completely beside the point. Combs who rented out this apartment in 1967 for the same price he's paying today, qualified for "rent control" as a person who began renting before July 1, 1971 and has occupied his apartment continuously for the past 40 years. Because of these rules, the rent for apartments like these can only be raised 7.5% a year, and as a result, rent controlled or rent stabilized apartments are typically much cheaper than the average rental.

Consequently, Combs gets away with murder paying only $71 a month for a prime apartment on Elizabeth Street, a 500 square foot apartment that would likely rent for $2,500 a month on the current market. He says he's intending to stay for as long as he lives, and depending on the New York legislature, his cheap rent may last even longer. The rent price for this apartment is automatically passed onto the spouse of the owner after death, so after Combs gets married, his husband will inherit this ridiculously inexpensive house as long as same sex marriage laws aren't repealed in New York.


1. $55.01 / Month | Thomas Lombardi, Elizabeth Street

Thomas Lombardi is in the same boat and building as Combs: but instead of spending an extravagant $71 a month, he's paying barely more than a nice pair of pants from Gap would cost. Or a soda every day from the nearest McDonalds. Or half a monthly subway ticket. While the rest of us are slaving away every day to barely make rent, he's sitting on his porch, enjoying the fruits of that $2,450 a month he's saving compared to us lowly mortals.

The reason these two lucky individuals have such a low rent, beyond the constraints of rent control, are simple: 40 years ago, the landlord of the building simply forgot to file the paperwork necessary to increase the rent, so they've been stuck with the same rent for nearly four decades. Can't say I feel sorry for them.

Lombardi, who is happily married and intends to allocate his cheap rent to his wife when he passes away, occupies a one-bedroom apartment that is also 500 square feet. This corresponds to a cost of essentially 10 cents per square foot per month for Lombardi, a price you wouldn't even be able to find in rural Texas.