It’s not the high taxes that are driving New Yorkers out of the Empire State — it’s the high cost of housing, according to a new report on out-of-state moves.
Middle-class Manhattanites moving across the river to Hudson County, New Jersey, can expect to save thousands of dollars a year on mortgage costs. The same is true for Brooklynites heading to Newark, and Westchester residents packing up for Fairfield County, Connecticut, according to the report from the Fiscal Policy Institute. But it found that the tax savings are negligible by comparison.
FPI researchers looked at the most common county-to-county moves from New York — led by that exodus from Manhattan to Hudson County — to estimate the difference between average home costs and estimated tax savings. They found that people who leave New York most often move within the tristate area: 16 of the 20 most common moves were from the five boroughs and Westchester to New Jersey and Connecticut. Philadelphia, Miami-Dade and Los Angeles counties round out the top 20.
The move out of the city to the surrounding suburbs led to some cost savings, the report found.
The researchers pegged annual average mortgage savings at $18,300 and annual rent savings at about $5,600 for those movers. They estimated that annual tax savings were just $1,200 — 15 times lower than the break on housing.
“It’s true there might be some relatively minor, for most median-income families, difference in the tax rates in the states to which they’re moving, but the home prices we found exceeded this on a full order of magnitude,” said Andrew Perry, a senior policy analyst with the FPI and the author of the report. “They’re moving to places where they can save money on housing and those housing savings really dwarf any tax differential.”
Neither New Jersey nor Connecticut are known for their low taxes, Perry added.
The researchers based their figures on median home price data for each county from Zillow, median rents from the website ApartmentList, and state tax data.
The migration data shows Manhattan movers most often head to Hudson County, New Jersey — home to towns like Jersey City, West New York and Secaucus. There they would save an average of about $36,600 in annual mortgage costs, but just $729 in taxes, the report found.
The median home price difference was even greater between Manhattan and Fairfield County, Connecticut, the second-most common out-of-state move, they found. They estimated the tax savings there at just under $1,200.
Families moving from Brooklyn to Essex County, New Jersey, the sixth-most common move, could expect to save an average of $15,524 on annual mortgage costs but just $729 in taxes, according to the FPI data.
The biggest cost differences occurred in moves from Manhattan to Miami-Dade County in Florida—the 11th most common county-to-county move—where estimated mortgage savings average $41,141, FPI said. They estimated tax savings at about $5,000.
One of the biggest problems seems to be New York’s lagging home production, the researchers said. New York City suburbs within the Empire State build new housing at a far lower rate than other neighboring counties, especially in New Jersey. For many New Yorkers, truly affordable homes are simply out of reach.
The report comes as left-leaning lawmakers and advocacy groups press the city and state to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund stronger social services, while conservatives and moderates warn that taxes are already driving New Yorkers of all income levels out of town. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has said the state will not raise income taxes, is set to release her budget plan Wednesday.
Perry said the organization hoped to bring some hard data to a fraught debate over tax policy and concerns over an exodus from New York City.
“I would like to shift the narrative from speculation and anecdotal data that says. ‘People must be fleeing to low taxation states’ to ‘Well, no, I think the weight of the evidence really points to housing costs,” Perry said.