NYC Housing Vacancy Survey Raises Serious Questions About City’s Housing Policy

May 19, 2022 Special from CHIP
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Jay Martin from CHIPS. Photo by Sasha Maslov.

The 2021 Housing Vacancy Survey, released yesterday, seems to reinforce the prevailing belief that New York City housing policies are failing. It is the general consensus that New York City has not created enough affordable housing to meet its needs. For almost 75 years now, the city has extended a “housing emergency” due to a rental vacancy rate below 5%. The vacancy rate in 2021 was 4.53%, allowing the New York City Council to trigger the self-perpetuating emergency and keep rent-stabilization in place.

“The lack of housing for low- and moderate-income renters is an emergency. But, if the elected officials continue to fail to address that emergency for seven decades, then we have to ask if they are actually trying. The evidence would suggest that our government is actively trying to depress the creation and preservation of needed housing with bad policies,” said Jay Martin, the Executive Director of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), a non-profit organization that works with building owners, tenants, and elected officials to preserve affordable housing in New York.

The report also found that 42,860 of those units are rent-stabilized apartments that have been vacant for more than one year and are still not available for rent. Several months ago, CHIP launched a social media campaign to highlight the growing number of units that are sitting vacant because of policies that make it impossible for property owners to make necessary renovations. The initial estimates from a CHIP survey conducted in 2021, were that at least 20,000 apartments fell into this category. The results from the Housing Vacancy Survey indicate the number has grown, and will continue to do so as a consequence of the changes to the 2019 rent laws. You can learn more about their campaign at vacancynyc.org.

“The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 is the reason these rent-stabilized units are sitting empty. They need significant renovations, sometimes in excess of $100,000, and there is no mechanism for an owner to recoup those costs. The law has effectively forced these units off the market,” Jay Martin added.

CHIP has also filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Rent Stabilization Law, believing the law has depressed the creation of housing and driven up New York City rents, making the city unaffordable for most New Yorkers. The case, CHIP v. NYC, is currently before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

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