Rep. Joeseph Crowley announced federal legislation this week that aims to create two refundable tax credits for low- and middle-income renters. For rental households across the U.S. with incomes of $125,000 or less, the Rent Relief Act would provide them with one of two tax credits, if the bill becomes law. According to the Democratic congressman, who represents part of the Bronx and Queens in New York’s 14th congressional district, roughly 111 million Americans live in rental housing, with about two-thirds of all households in New York City currently renting, twice the national average.
Tenants leasing a rent-regulated apartment, buildings built before 1974 with six or more units, will soon see their rents rise for the first time in years. New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board voted to increase rent for regulated apartments on Tuesday, allowing an increase of 1.25 percent for one-year leases and 2 percent on two-year leases, set to begin Oct. 1. As the New York Times reported, the board, which had voted two years in a row to freeze rents, found that a 6.2 percent increase in operating costs for landlords in 2016 warranted this year’s increase.
Following two years of rent freezes, the city’s Rent Guidelines Board will take a final vote on Tuesday to determine whether or not rents will be increased by at least one percent. Earlier this year in April, the board voted to increase rents by one to three percent for one-year leases and four percent for two-year leases in a preliminary vote. According to the Wall Street Journal, the board released a study that showed landlord costs rose in the past year, a shift that landlords say warrants an increase in rents on new leases that take effect on or after Oct. 1.
Scoring a rent-stabilized apartment is a big win in New York City, as these regulated pads usually offer rent at below-market rates and provide tenants more protections against landlords. While more than 925,000 rent-stabilized apartments still exist in the city, these units turn over at a faster rate in certain neighborhoods than others, and their availability continues to dwindle (h/t WYNC). According to a new report by the city’s Independent Budget Office (IBO), the neighborhoods of Astoria, Morningside Heights and Bay Ridge all have high concentrations of rent-regulated housing built prior to 1974 and therefore, higher rates of turnover compared to other parts of the city.
Last year close to 22,000 tenants across the city were evicted from their homes, an issue that the folks at ProPublica trace to a 1994 City Council vote on “vacancy decontrol,” which allowed landlords to evade rent regulation and charge market rate for vacated apartments that cost $2,000 or more a month (it’s now $2,500). Not only did this incentive rent hikes, but it’s led to a major blow to the city’s rent stabilized inventory. To show the correlation between evictions and rent regulation, ProPublica has created this interactive map of the more than 450,000 eviction cases filed between January 2013 and June 2015. It shows the number of evictions in a given building (it’s shocking how many have had more than 50 in less than three years) and whether or not that building is rent stabilized.
A recent report detailed how nearly two thirds of the city’s 6,400 rental buildings where landlords received 421-a tax breaks didn’t file properly as rent stabilized, meaning they could raise the rents as much as they chose. Now, 178 of these buildings may lose the coveted exemptions if they don’t start complying with the regulations. The Post reports that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development sent out warning letters to these landlords, who altogether represent 1,400 apartments, telling them if they don’t comply within 90 days their benefits will be “revoked retroactively.”
The city’s 421-a program, which expired in January, provides tax breaks of up to 25 years to new residential buildings that reserve at least 20 percent of units as affordable. Proponents of the program feel it offers a much-needed incentive to build low- and moderate-income housing, but those not in favor think it gives unfair tax breaks to the wealthiest developers. The latter camp may be gaining steam, as a new report from ProPublica, outlined in Gothamist, says that nearly two thirds of the 6,400 rental buildings where landlords received tax reductions through 421-a didn’t have required rent stabilization paperwork on file, meaning they could raise rents as much as they chose. ProPublica compiled this data in both an interactive map and searchable database.
Historic brownstones in Brooklyn Heights via City Realty
The war wages on between the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and citywide preservationists. Many thought the contention between the groups over whether or not historic districts lessen affordable housing was a personal sentiment of former REBNY president Steven Spinola. But his successor John Banks has released a new report that claims landmarking doesn’t protect affordable housing.
The report looks at the number of rent-stabilized units in landmarked and non-landmarked districts between 2007 and 2014, finding that “citywide, landmarked properties lost rent stabilized units (-22.5%) at a much higher rate (-5.1%) than non-landmarked properties.” Of course preservationists quickly fired back. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) calls the study “bogus” and says it does nothing to address how many units would have been lost had these areas not been landmarked.
At the end of last month, the Rent Guidelines Board voted to freeze rents for the first time on one-year leases for the city’s more than one million rent stabilized apartments, which make up about 47% of the city’s total rental units. They also increased rents on two-year leases by only two percent, the lowest in the board’s 46 years. While this historic ruling is a huge win for tenants, it doesn’t bring back the astonishing number of apartments that have been deregulated. Since 1994, nearly 250,000 units have lost rent regulation protections, and over these past eight years alone, New York City has lost more than 50,000 rent stabilized apartments.
To put that staggering number into perspective, cartographer John Krauss has put together a handy map that shows where all of these 50,000 apartments are located (h/t Gothamist). Using scraped tax bills, he plotted changes in the number of rent-stabilized units, building by building.
From the onset, Mayor de Blasio has been extremely vocal about his plan to add 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years, 80,000 of which will be new construction. Though many feel this is an arbitrary number, backed up by no data as to where the units will be, the Mayor seems committed to reforming current policies to reach his goal. And after months of speculation, he has revealed his planned changes to the city’s 421-a tax incentive program, which is set to expire in June.
According to the Times, under his proposal, the controversial tax would no longer apply to condo projects (to understand the logic behind this decision just look at the $100 million sale at One57 that received the tax abatement). But it would apply to new rental projects, which would have to have apartments for poor and working-class residents make up 20 to 30 percent of the building in order to qualify for city tax breaks. It would also extend the abatement from 25 years to 35 years. Another part of the overhaul is to eliminate so-called poor doors.
De Blasio also wants to up the city’s mansion tax. Currently, home sales over $1 million are subject to a 1 percent tax, but de Blasio proposes adding an additional 1 percent tax for sales over $1.75 million, as well as a third 1.5 percent tax for sales over $5 million. He estimates this will bring in an extra $200 million a year in tax revenue, money that would be allocated to affordable housing programs.