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Rents soar as apartments dwindle in Manhattan, industry reports show

Rents are too damn high — and apartments are too damn scarce.

Manhattan rents soared 8.6 percent last year — reaching pre-2007-crash highs — while vacancy rates plummeted and residents grabbed apartments at a near-record pace, new industry reports show.

“Last year was a very good year to be a landlord,” said Gary Malin, president of City Habitats.

The average Manhattan apartment rent hit $3,309 a month, up from $3,046 in 2010. And the hikes were across the board, regardless of apartment size or location.

Studio and one-bedroom apartments were up 8 percent compared with 2010, Citi Habitats found. Two- and three-bedroom homes went up an average of 9 percent.

It doesn’t matter which neighborhood you want to live in: Studio rents rose an average of $199 a month in Chelsea, from $2,133 to $2,332; they jumped $237 in Midtown East, from $1,777 to $2,014; and went up $144 on the Upper West Side, from $1,764 to $1,908, for example.

And just try to find an apartment: The average vacancy rate in the borough was a tiny 0.96 percent, down from 1.16 percent in 2011.

The bad news came in quarterly reports issued by industry leaders yesterday. They said city dwellers are renting because the tight mortgage market, the volatile economy and lack of new housing are scaring them away from trying to buy.

“Renting appeals to many in an uncertain market because compared to owning a home, it’s relatively commitment-free,” said Malin. “It’s like dating your home, instead of marrying it.”

“The tightness of credit is the key driver of the rental market today,” said Jonathan Miller, of Miller Samuel, which prepared the Prudential Douglas Elliman quarterly report. It found that apartments were on the market for only 37 days, compared with 44 days last year.

“In the last quarter of the year, properties rented at their second-fastest pace in more than 15 years,” said Dottie Herman, president of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Manhattanites say the grim rental situation forces them to make tough choices, like how much space they can afford.

“I pay $1,750 a month and live in a box,” said Bailey Duffy, 24, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment at 75th Street and First Avenue. “Without my parents helping me, I probably couldn’t do it.”

“For what I pay, I’d be living in a much bigger place anywhere else,” he said.

Marina Kushnir, 31, a special-ed teacher, moved into a $3,400, two-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side a few months ago with her husband and two kids. She said they’ve had to keep a tight rein on spending to afford rent.

“You have to think about your expenses, whether you can afford a plane ticket on a particular date,” she said. “We had to sit down and count it out to make sure we could do it.”

The $3,309 average Manhattan rent is not a record — it was $3,310, one buck more, in 2007, before the economy tanked. But the average fell to $3,272 in 2008, then $3,034 in 2009 and $3,046 in 2010.

Another telltale sign of the tough market: Landlord concessions, such as giving renters a month’s free rent or paying a broker’s fee, are scarce.

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