NYC rent-stabilized units increasing, but housing advocates call for more protection laws

Bushwick has spacious apartments and affordable prices, experts said.
Bushwick has spacious apartments and affordable prices, experts said. Photo Credit: Juanita Hong / Juanita Hong

The number of available rent-stabilized units increased in the city for the second year in a row, according to a new report, but housing advocates say Albany needs to do more to strengthen the laws that preserve those apartments and keep them affordable.

The city’s Rent Guidelines Board, which determines the rent increases for the nearly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, found that after a decade of losing tens of thousands of apartments to deregulation, the city has gained 1,256 rent-stabilized apartments over the past two years.

Some experts, however, say the neediest New Yorkers can’t take advantage of the new homes because they’re listed at market rates and Albany leaders still need to fight for better rent-stabilization laws, which expire in less than two weeks.

“Anything that is coming into the rent stabilized [system] is going to be at the higher level, said Emily Goldstein of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. “Generally, even if it was a net gain of more rent-stabilized units, fewer are serving lower income.”

Under state law, rent-stabilized units must be buildings that aren’t condos or co-ops and were built between 1947 and Jan. 1, 1974, or are buildings where the owners received a tax credit for offering lower rates. Rents can’t exceed $2,500 a month, and qualified tenants’ gross income must not be more than $200,000.

The study, which was first reported by Capital New York and used data from such sources as the city’s office of Housing Preservation and Development as well as the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, said the city lost 9,013 rent-stabilized apartments and added 9,182 units in 2014 — a net gain of 169.

In 2013, meanwhile, New York had a 1,087 net gain in available units — losing 7,597 units and adding 8,684, marking the first increase in a decade, when the board started tracking the housing stock.

The city gained rent-stabilized housing mostly through tax credits to developers, such as the 421-a program, and buyouts of former Mitchell-Lama units.

The lack of affordable housing has become a growing issue in the city as rents have skyrocketed, forcing many families and small businesses out of the city. A report released last week by NYU’s Furman Center found New York renters making the median income of $40,900 could afford just one-fifth of new apartments.

Ilana Maier, the program director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, said the tax incentives for developers cannot create enough cheap units to meet the demand of the neediest New Yorkers and rarely offer rents that can meet their budgets.

“You have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting into 421-a housing,” she said.

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