13,000+ rent-stabilized units in NYC have been vacant for multiple years

August 25, 2023

Photo © 6sqft

Upwards of 13,000 rent-stabilized homes in New York City have sat vacant over the past two years, according to a new report. Out of 42,275 rent-stabilized apartments listed in April 2022, many of which were marked as “newly vacant,” 13,362 units remained empty for two consecutive years, up from 12,300 in 2021, according to the report by the city’s Independent Budget Office. These data points are making officials question whether the units are vacant due to tenants moving in and out or whether they have been “warehoused,” or deliberately taken off the market, according to Gothamist.

Tenant advocacy groups claim landlords deliberately take rentals off the market to force the state to cap maximum rent and forbid deregulation, allowing landlords to increase rents. Landlord groups claim they have no option but to keep low-rent apartments empty because they can’t afford to make needed repairs and renovations on rent money alone.

Since landlords are not required to state why a unit is empty, there is no way to identify how many apartments have been taken off the market purposefully, Sarah Stefanski, assistant director at the IBO, told Gothamist. However, taking a closer look at specific units that have been marked as vacant for an extended period of time can shed some clues, according to Stefanski.

“There’s going to be vacant apartments but what we wanted to answer in this project is, are these part of natural turnover, or are these apartments that are sitting vacant over multiple years?” Stefanski told Gothamist.

The prospect of “warehousing” vacant apartments has been a major cause for concern among tenants as the city continues to struggle with record-breaking rents, homelessness, and a housing shortage. Policymakers have proposed legislation that will force landlords to put apartments back on the market, as well as a grant program that will help landlords pay for units in need of renovation. Some landlords also wait until an adjacent unit is vacant in order to combine apartments and set a new rent, a loophole that state officials are also expected to prohibit, according to the Real Deal.

In 2022, landlords registered roughly 836,00 rent-stabilized units, down from more than 944,000 in 2019, the year in which new laws were enacted that limited the ability for landlords to raise rent or deregulate apartments, according to the IBO.

Landlord groups say that the high number of vacant units supports their claims that the city has too many rent-stabilized apartments and that landlords are equipped to cover the involved costs.

In 2019, rent legislation was passed that capped the recoverable renovation costs at $15,000 for over 30 years, while property owners claim that the estimated cost to renovate apartments after a long-term tenancy costs $100,000 or more, according to the Real Deal. Since rent-stabilized tenants can renew their leases as long as they please, landlords have to renovate units that have not seen any major upgrades in decades but cannot aise the rent to cover the expenses.

“The number of overall vacancies should be dramatically lower, but the current laws are forcing thousands of apartments to stay empty,” Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a group representing landlords, told the Real Deal.


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  1. D

    “landlords deliberately take rentals off the market to force the state to cap maximum rent and forbid deregulation”

    I’m afraid this makes no sense whatsover.