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Morning Spew

It’s Wednesday and the Numbers Sure Do Raise Questions About Landlords Crying Poverty

Landlords squatting on affordable housing, Samuel L. Jackson's prophesy fulfilled, and more NYC news.

5:56 AM EDT on October 19, 2022

(Artem Zhukov )

Today, The CITY published the figures from a state housing agency memo showing the true number of vacant rent-stabilized apartments registered in New York. According to the story, which we suggest you read in full, the number of cheap, empty apartments being held hostage by landlords doubled over the space of a year. As of 2021, there were 61,000 of these rent-stabilized units across the state. That’s 61,000 affordable units, sitting empty, as the city of New York faces both a shelter crisis and historically high rents, the latter of which is often rationalized as a simple issue of supply and demand. 

Advocates compare the practice of “warehousing” apartments to “political ransom,” and it’s absolutely true the empty apartments are being used as a symbol of landlords’ frustration with housing regulations enacted over the last few years.

Specifically, the sweeping changes to statewide rent regulations in 2019 prevented landlords from significantly raising rents on regulated apartments when a tenant moved out. Landlords argue they’re sitting on valuable assets they can’t renovate and rent at “market rate,” forcing them to sit on empty apartments that are unfit for habitation. Over the last year the euphemistically named Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), a powerful landlord lobbying group, has been running a campaign to showcase these units on Twitter and TikTok. But it seems highly unlikely every one of the 61,000 rent regulated apartments sitting vacant in New York are uninhabitable hovels requiring full gut renovations. 

As The CITY put it, quite gently, the numbers “also raise questions about landlords’ claims.” 

Here’s what’s going on elsewhere in New York: 

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