NEW YORK - Rent-stabilized apartments are highly sought after in New York City. But the number of those available for rent is the subject of a just-released report from the nonpartisan NYC Independent Budget Office. The IBO says that more than 13,000 apartments sat vacant for at least two years between 2021 and 2022.
Sarah Stefanski, assistant director of the IBO, said, "There's been a lot of speculation around rent-stabilized apartments sitting empty for long periods of time, but not a lot of underlying data behind that discussion. There could be multiple reasons. It could be a property owner is in the process of renovating an apartment. A property owner is looking for a particular tenant that they haven't found yet."
The IBO says last year landlords listed more than 42,000 rent-stabilized apartments, which, for a city struggling to make affordable housing available wide scale, is eyebrow-raising for some.
"Owners don't want those apartments to sit vacant. It makes no sense. A vacant apartment helps nobody," said Frank Ricci, the executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association.
Ricci says, from their perspective, a number of vacancies are the result of changes to the law in 2019 that restrict rent increases for stabilized units especially if significant repairs are needed to make an apartment habitable.
"It could be anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000, depending on the size of the apartment. But under the current law, the owner is only allowed an $89-a-month increase. So let's say you have a $700-a-month apartment. You have to put in $50,000 to get $89 a month back. Your rate of return is going to be 30 or 40 years," Ricci continued.
Landlords are not required to say why an apartment is empty but a more detailed registry of empty NYC apartments is part of a bill recently introduced by Brooklyn City Councilman Lincoln Restler.
"If apartments have been vacant for extended periods of time, then we ensure that the landlords provide information: Is it habitable? Why has it been vacant? So that we can enact the necessary policies to maximize every single available apartment in the city of New York City," Restler said.