Variety Makes the City

On October 13, the Post-Standard published a list of the cities, towns, villages, hamlets, and census designated places with the highest median monthly rent in each of Upstate’s fifty-three counties. Westvale was tops in Onondaga. The median rent there is $1,025 a month. That’s a lot higher than the $737 a month that the median renter pays in Syracuse.

But it’s a funny idea to try and compare Westvale to Syracuse like this. All of Westvale’s 89 apartments are about the same size, they’re about the same age, they’re in a single neighborhood. Its cheapest apartments aren’t much cheaper than it’s most expensive apartments because all of its apartments are about the same.

Syracuse’s 33,926 apartments offer a lot more variety. Take the Near Westside. It’s a mix of houses built in the 1800’s, public housing from the 1950s, and some new ‘green’ houses built in the last couple of years. The median rent in that neighborhood is $473. In the oldest part of Eastwood, the houses are closer together and closer to the street, and the median rent is $709. Downtown, where a lot of the housing is brand new luxury apartments in old office buildings, the median rent is $1,010. Up in Skytop, the median Syracuse University student pays $1,366 a month to live in a dorm. Just reporting the median rent for the whole City covers up all that variety.

When someone is choosing where to live in Syracuse, they’ve got a lot of options. They can live in brand new apartments on the City’s outskirts, they can live in a renovated factory in a former industrial area, they can live in a skyscraper downtown, they can live in an old house in an inner neighborhood. All of those places offer different things to different people–whether it’s the neighborhood, the commute, the apartment itself, or the rent–so many different kinds of people can find a place to make a life in the City.

That variety makes Syracuse unique in Onondaga County. It means that there’s more opportunity in the City, and it keeps Syracuse resilient while its homogenous suburbs–like Westvale–are vulnerable to changes in the economy and in people’s tastes. You can’t reduce all that to a single number.