BY JOSEPH STRASBURG
The affordable housing plan that Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled out last month during his State of the City address leaves out the largest providers of quality, affordable housing – the 25,000 landlords of one million rent-stabilized apartments.
Poor and working families in Queens call over a quarter-million of these apartments their home.
But some policy makers in Albany and City Hall, including de Blasio, find it politically expedient to demonize landlords of rent-stabilized housing.
With the State’s rent laws expiring in June, these politicians call for stricter regulations, along with an end to programs and policies that help landlords re-invest in their buildings.
These politicians support a rent freeze on top of increased real estate taxes and water charges.
In fact, de Blasio, in his State of the City, said, in part, “… we’re already… making real progress toward a more affordable New York… our Rent Guidelines Board passed the smallest rent increase ever last year… And we need stronger rent regulations [in Albany]…”
But the “smallest rent increase ever” denies landlords the revenue they need to re-invest in their buildings – making the repairs and improvements necessary to maintaining and preserving the bulk of the city’s already existing affordable housing stock.
When landlords are denied their only source of revenue, the impact is felt throughout the City and State. Most of these are pre-World War II buildings aging and in need of repair and upgrades.
When landlords make repairs and improvements to their apartments, this translates into a steady stream of work for local small businesses – which further translates into jobs for local residents who, in turn, support retail shops and restaurants in their neighborhoods. This generates tax revenue for the City and State, and most importantly, it stabilizes neighborhoods and preserves existing affordable housing.
But the Mayor’s affordability plan is “a tale of two cities.” Landlords who are already providing affordable housing are burdened with higher real estate taxes and water charges (de Blasio recently proposed a 13 percent hike in real estate tax assessments and raised water rates 3.6 percent last year). Yet, developers receive tax breaks for providing a percentage of affordable units in their new construction.
If some Albany and City Hall politicians continue on the path of supporting more burdensome rent regulations and a rent freeze, in tandem with higher real estate and water taxes, maybe they should be reminded of what happened to the City’s affordable housing stock in the 1980’s.
Memo to Albany and City Hall lawmakers: Don’t eliminate programs that provide landlords with the ability to re-invest in their buildings – and to invest in their communities.
The private sector is already doing more than its share to preserve affordable housing. Imposing higher real estate taxes and water charges, rent freezes and stricter rent regulations in Albany will only hurt poor and working families, neighborhoods and the preservation of affordable housing. Maybe it’s time for new solutions to an old problem.
Strasburg is President of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 owners of one million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs.