New York’s self storage sector satisfies local requirements in both the central and outlying areas, and was on hand during recent surges of moving activity. In terms of the space it provides per capita it lags behind other large US metros, but considerable development is underway to answer the needs of new, often younger, residents. The health of the local self storage sector is confirmed by activity in the marketplace: it saw a greater volume of transactions in 2020 than any other US city — almost half a billion dollars, most of it in Brooklyn — with street rates that, while not the nation’s fastest-rising, are steady right now.

To find out more about the state of play in the New York self storage market, we asked a manager at Gotham Mini Storage in Midtown Manhattan — they offer storage spaces ranging from 4’x4’x4’ lockers to 10’x20’x8’ units, with climate control throughout.

NYC self storage helped people move away from the center and back again

The pandemic affected urban dwellers, with many upping sticks to avoid congested areas. Inner-city New Yorkers had Manhattan self storage available for their possessions while they moved, and facilities further out come in handy for those moving out longer term. “Speaking to friends that have storage sites out on the island in Suffolk and Nassau or in Jersey, they were running out of space,” our self storage manager confirms.

Later, however, when rents were lowered and people had become accustomed to health restrictions, many felt it was safe to return. “Starting in May, people started moving back into the city, so you saw storage in the city starting to gain traction,” our contact at Gotham Mini Storage observes. A wider variety of NYC neighborhoods are becoming fashionable, and returning Gothamites have access to the many storage units in Brooklyn as well.

NYC leads self storage development, supplying its changing demographics

Some good discounts were offered to entice people back to New York, and this would have encouraged anyone used to entry-level accommodation. “The younger ones we’re seeing more of, not married couples with kids,” our self storage manager in Midtown Manhattan has noticed. “They’re single or they got a couple of friends and they’re buying an apartment, doing it that way.” New arrivals may not have as much living space as they as used to, sending more business the way of New York’s self storage providers.

And new residents need new facilities. The New York self storage sector has been redressing its traditionally low space provision, which is currently about 3.6 square feet per person across the metropolitan area. As per Yardi Matrix data, the square footage of all self storage currently planned or under construction here is the highest of all the nation’s large metros, equivalent to no less than 18.3% of the total inventory and a year-over-year increase on previous months.

New Yorkers need climate-controlled units, and vehicle storage further out

But how temporary is New Yorkers’ new use of storage likely to be? “They’re putting in their stuff for a few months now, we’re hoping it’ll be longer, but it all depends on the situation,” our Gotham Mini Storage manager observes, adding that the space available with a 10’x10’ unit suits many. He also stresses the need for climate-control to deal with the city’s famously challenging weather: “Most of the newer facilities are going to be climate control because people don’t want their stuff ruined in the city and it gets really humid.”

But space is limited in Central New York even for storage providers. For example, vehicle storage isn’t as common here as it is in other large cities — New York does have the world’s largest rapid transit system, so the need for cars in many zones is understandable less. “Out in the suburban areas, you’ll see people put in collectible cars or RVs or their business trucks,” but in Midtown Manhattan, for example, this is not so possible.

New Yorkers prioritize price, good management, and boosts to business as well

Metro NYC’s average monthly rate for a non-climate-controlled 10’x10’ storage unit is $191, but this price is increasing at only a third of the rates seen in places such as Miami, Phoenix and Atlanta. “Right now, consumers are looking at price,” our Gotham Mini Storage manager says. He also emphasizes other requirements of a self storage facility that help minimize the stress of their busy lives: “They want to know that it’s clean, it’s nice, it’s maintained, it looks good, and the people are trustworthy.”

The business uses of self storage will not be lost on New Yorkers, and our Midtown Manhattan contact is keen to relate stories of entrepreneurs: “They can’t afford brick and mortar and they start off in storage. I’ve seen great startups coming and do their stuff and get their business and funding. They’re with us for a couple of years and then they branch out and they get their own building.” As they say, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere, and a trip to a local self storage facility could be the first step!

Gotham Mini Storage - 501 10th Avenue, New York, NY

New York’s self storage sector has seen its share of interesting times recently, both in terms of clientele and market activity. The fact that it leads the nation in terms of development bodes well both for investors and for customers who would like to see a wider choice of facilities. The self storage business moves with the times, will always grow as a city or a business community grows, and still provides plenty of interest and enjoyment from a management point of view.

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Francis Chantree is a former programmer and researcher who has exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he spends his time gardening, reading and singing.

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