We like to say that property management companies are the umpires and referees of the rental market. A good property manager is not biased toward property owners, who have made significant investments in Manhattan’s rental market, or renters who have a right to safe housing and who are paying for a quality home. Instead, a good property manager makes sure that both parties, renters and property owners, are protected in their agreement. As a business, we are most successful when property owners and renters find common ground. For that reason, we believe that the only way to build the rental market of tomorrow in Manhattan is to collaborate with renters and rental advocacy groups. We believe that everyone should have access to safe and affordable housing and Frontier Property Management is ready to partner with renters to make Manhattan’s shared future a reality.
This isn’t solely a business decision. 64% of Frontier’s employees rent locally. Our team has rented from responsible landlords and irresponsible landlords. Our team has lived in safe housing and unsafe housing. Our team has struggled to pay rent as single-income households. Our team understands renters because many of us are renters. As a company, we believe that understanding has given us a customer-service edge and an ability to better communicate with property owners and renters. As property managers, we’re proud to represent a wide variety of Manhattan residents including professionals of all ages, military service members, students and long-time Manhattan residents, and we support Manhattan’s renters as they organize and learn more about their rights as tenants.
As a property management company, we play an important role in representing two very different customer bases—property owners and renters—to ensure that Manhattan’s housing market meets the standard of safe and affordable. It is possible to treat each and every resident with dignity and respect while serving the best interest of property owners, our clients, who have a vested interest in the happiness of residents and their neighbors.
Much of the conversation around housing has centered on affordability. As a firm that negotiates pricing on behalf of renters and property owners, we believe that we have a unique perspective on this topic. First, we understand the importance of affordable housing to a community. That is why we offer safe, quality homes and apartments that start at $450 per month. We’ve seen how many families must choose between affordability and safety, but we hold ourselves to a different standard. While there are landlords and property management companies that will take advantage of people, sadly even a few in Manhattan, and others who will only do the bare minimum to stay code compliant or Band-Aid their property along, at Frontier we genuinely care about people’s safety, well-being and happiness. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s good business.
As representatives of property owners, we work diligently to create value for our clients who have made an investment in Manhattan’s real estate market. While many believe that affordability must come at the expense of a property owner’s profit, that sentiment reflects a common misunderstanding of rental prices. As a commodity, housing costs are directly tied to the laws of supply and demand. In this market, a large percentage of vacancies in the rental market means that there is more available housing than there is demand, so rental prices will typically fall. On the other hand, when there is not enough housing available for rent, prices tend to rise. While the relationship between supply and demand determines rental rates at large, high-demand for properties in a specific range can exhaust supply and drive prices higher in that price range.
There is, of course, a maximum that renters can pay for housing and when renters pay that maximum they are, by definition, rent-burdened, which begins at 30% of household income. First some numbers: Manhattan’s average per capita income is $27,515 and average household income is $50,698; meanwhile, the average rent in Manhattan is $558 per month for a one-bedroom and $739 per month for a two-bedroom rental. For comparison, Manhattan is offering one- and two-bedroom housing at a cheaper rate than our neighbors in Wichita ($560/$744), Topeka ($599/$790), Lawrence ($706/$925) and Kansas City ($736/$903), and at cheaper rates than renters find in comparable college towns, such as Fayetteville ($583/$753), Lincoln ($654/$861), Ames ($826/$1,006) and Fort Collins ($971/$1,188).
We recognize that affordability is more than the cost of housing, affordability is affected by household income and other expenses, such as food, utilities and healthcare costs. While Manhattan is one of the cheapest major cities to rent in in Kansas, we have one of the highest rent-burdened rates in the state: 58.2%, or close to 10,000 Manhattan households. Single income households and households with students spend a significantly higher percentage of their income on housing than dual-income households and households with established professionals. When looking at these numbers, it’s hard to ignore that what is called an affordability problem is really two problems: low supply of high-quality single-income properties and a lower average per capita and household income than comparable communities.
This is a call to action: if you’re a rental advocacy group, we want to hear from you. Divisive rhetoric doesn’t work for either side. Instead, let’s work together to make Manhattan’s future brighter for renters and owners. As a company that works for both renters and property owners, we want to find common ground. It’s what we do best and how we’re successful as a business. As an employer of many single-income renters, we understand that there’s high demand in that market, and as a property management firm are doing our part to solve it. But change won’t happen if we don’t work together. To the Manhattan community, our promise is simple: we will do our part to promote solid communication and a two-way dialogue between renters and property owners to assure the best rental experience possible, in safe and affordable housing, even if it’s not with Frontier.