Can You Afford to Live Here?

Analysis focuses on taxes, housing, living expenses

By Jeff Simms

An analysis of the affordability of living in New York, including specific data about the Hudson Highlands, suggests the state is losing hundreds of thousands of residents annually.

By quantifying the cost of living throughout the state, the Reclaim New York Center for Government Reform and Accountability, a Manhattan-based non-profit founded in 2013, says it hopes to inspire a “citizen movement” to help fix a system it calls “broken from the top down.” It has said its programs “focus on empowering citizen-driven oversight that increases transparency, makes government more responsive and makes our state more affordable.”

The group’s principal officer, according to an IRS filing, is Stephen K. Bannon, a businessman and conservative filmmaker who is CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, co-founder of the Government Accountability Institute and former chairman of Breitbart News.

Although federal census figures show New York’s population has grown 2 percent over the last five years, Reclaim’s Executive Director Brandon Muir, citing an analysis of IRS data, says 1.8 million people have left the state since 2000, including 126,000 in 2014. Illinois was second, losing 82,000 residents that year.

Source: Reclaim NY

Source: Reclaim NY

The crux of the study is what the organization calls a “wake-up cost” — the price one pays, through taxes and living expenses, to live (or “wake up”) in New York state. In Beacon, the report calculates that taxes, rent and other costs leave a family making the median income of $68,000 with only $500 per month to save for retirement, education and other long-term expenses.

And while the Hudson Highlands, and Beacon in particular, has become a destination for Manhattan and Brooklynites priced out of the city, Muir says that its wake-up cost — the organization provides a personalized calculator at — provides a more accurate snapshot of what it costs to live here. For example, you may pay less income tax after moving from New York to the Highlands, but higher property taxes  could wipe out the savings.

Source: Reclaim NY

Source: Reclaim NY

“Our point is not to come across and make a decision for you,” Muir said. “But no one in the market now is giving you the tools for this kind of information. Understand what your total tax burden is — then you can have an educated conversation about what you can afford.”

In Cold Spring, which has a lower property tax rate, the picture is somewhat rosier. Village households making the median of $85,000 are left with about $1,200 a month for savings. However, Muir said that Cold Spring residents will need to save $805 per month from ages of 45 to 65 to pay the property taxes they’ll owe from ages 65 to 85.

Reclaim’s study lacks data on wages in the Highlands, but other research has found that jobs in the region often do not pay enough to support the cost of living here. According to the Newburgh-based Pattern for Progress, only 30 percent of Beacon’s roughly 15,000 residents work within the municipality. Another 31 percent travel to either Westchester County or New York City.

5 thoughts on “Can You Afford to Live Here?

  1. Hey who needs facts?

    Population data from the IRS? The Census Bureau thinks the population has increased by 750,000 since 2000.

    And no way the median home value is Cold Spring is an unimaginable $860,000. Zillow thinks it is $450,000.

    I must say I’m a bit surprised to see regurgitated Trump propaganda in this paper too.

    • We didn’t report $860,000 as the median value of a home in Cold Spring. Reclaim NY uses that figure as an “affordable” home for a couple with two children who have a household income of $170,000 annually. They relied largely on census data and an analysis of IRS data done by others.)

      The full calculations are here:

      Cold Spring

      We thought it was an interesting way to look at the cost of living in New York. Reclaim NY makes no secret of its agenda (that New Yorkers are overtaxed), nor did we; readers can decide for themselves if the calculations have value.

      Chip Rowe
      Managing Editor

  2. office is in NYC, its web and financial firms are out of state. Visit its website, lots of info on who they are what they do.

    Compare Reclaim data to U.S. Census data. Very interesting and different.

  3. The topic of taxation is very worthy of consideration but the information provided in the two charts, one for Beacon and one for Cold Spring, is so simplistic, so poorly displayed and poorly explained that it’s almost worse than worthless.

    I am guessing here that “income” is pre-tax annual family income, that “home value” is accessed property value, that the other items are monthly numbers rather than the annual number for income (and for the Beacon chart “income” is a misprint that should be “income tax”, and so on, but I cannot be sure.

    Are these uncertainties due to sloppiness or due to some sort of a political agenda? I cannot be sure. High tax rates and tax injustices are real issues of which I have commented in the past so I feel it necessary to comment on this particular analysis presented in this otherwise generally useful and balanced newspaper.

    Why are recent grads paying almost as much property taxes are married couples +2 (which I take to mean plus two children)? As renters!?

    I see number for renter’s insurance but not for homeowner’s insurance. I do not see mortgage taxes mentioned. Is it really true that rents for recent grads in Beacon are almost the same as rents for couples with two children? If so that is perhaps due to specifics and peculiarities of that local housing stock and the local demographics, not because recent grads need less space than families or that smaller apartments cost more than larger apartments.

    Is it really true that home owners and family renters In Cold Spring have total transportation costs almost the same as those in Beacon, while single renters see a significant drop from Beacon to Cold Spring? Do transportation costs include fines for moving violations, parking tickets, legal costs, etc.? If not where are these items to be found?

    I don’t see any costs listed for consumer loan interest charges. Are they wrapped into the other costs and therefore not specifically examined in this analysis?

    I don’t see any costs for daycare, or private schools, or college student loans. Presumably good educations and college degrees are often a factor allowing for some of the higher income levels. The article does mention education as being a “long term” cost which is “saved” for, after expenses. I rather doubt education, for many people, is a cost item accounted for in a way similar to retirement accounting.

    I don’t see categories for clothing, furniture, or even entertainment (other than “internet/TV’).

    I don’t see Social Security taxes listed.

    The calculation for savings of Cold Spring families with median incomes of $85,000 in the text of the article (about $1,200 a month) does not match the savings indicated in the chart ($529).

  4. I think the article did a poor job of analyzing this data and putting it into any broader perspective.