ITHACA, N.Y. — Housing is expensive in Ithaca. Yes, most readers have probably heard that comment by now. But sometimes, it’s hard to visualize how much farther, or much less a dollar goes in Ithaca when compared to its neighbors and peers. Today, let’s look at the numbers.

Real estate listing aggregator ApartmentList decided to compile some data to see how much space a certain monthly rent would get you in a given community. The method for this was fairly straightforward – collect a community’s apartment listings over the past six-month period, calculate the cost per square-foot from provided rental prices and floor plans, and determine how much space could be afforded for that price point. ApartmentList chose a nice, round $1,500/month as the basis of their analysis.

The chart above was put together using ApartmentList’s data, and tailored towards you, our readers. But feel free to click the toolbar below the chart to mix and match from hundreds of cities from coast to coast.

One of the general observations from their work was that the more expensive a community, the smaller apartments tended to be – fair enough, one could easily make the argument that it allows budget-minded renters more options. Locally, we know that larger units outside of Collegetown tend to rent more slowly than the market as a whole; larger households in need of larger apartment units are more inclined to buy a house as soon as reasonable, rather than rent.

So what does $1,500/month get you in Ithaca? Not a whole lot – the average space available at that price point clocks in at only 690 SF (square-feet), a modest one-bedroom. Ithaca is a rather pricey $2.17 per square foot of living space. In Elmira, with an average rental price of $0.73 per square-foot, that price would net you 2,080 square feet, almost three times as much (though keep in mind, there’s no adjustment for the housing quality). Corning, at $0.89/square-foot, averages 1,680 square feet for a $1,500/month price point. Most of upstate is quite generous: Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany all have values above 1,000 square-feet. The only other upstate city that comes in with less than 1,000 square-feet is ritzy and prosperous Saratoga Springs.

This analysis doesn’t break values down by neighborhood, so Collegetown’s high-end extremes (often $1,300/month per bedroom in multi-bedroom inner Collegetown units) are averaged in with other neighborhoods. The numbers are unfairly skewed, perhaps? Good argument to make! With that in mind, it seems only fair to put together a chart that includes not just Ithaca’s upstate neighbors, but its peers as well – other sizable college towns in the Northeast and across the country. These should have their own Collegetowns to balance out Ithaca’s.

Even with those cities including in this analysis, Ithaca still comes in at the small end of the pack. Burlington, State College, Boulder, Asheville, Charlottesville…while most cost more per square-foot than the upstate New York cities, a dollar still goes further in those educated burgs than it does in the city of gorges. The only cities with lower buying power are burgeoning, compact big cities like Boston and New York.

While this data might speak to Ithacans’ ability to make do with smaller living spaces, the overall impression is not great. This analysis is another manifestation of the area’s affordability issues, and the worrying potential to drive cash-strapped renters elsewhere, whether that be a commute from Binghamton, or a similar but less expensive lifestyle in Burlington.

Reporter Kelsey O’Connor contributed to this article.

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at