Memo to de Blasio: Give a break to rent-stabilized owners Op-Ed

| 27 Apr 2015 | 07:11

Mayor Bill de Blasio consistently leaves the most important group out of the affordable housing discussion: the owners of one million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs who are the city’s largest providers of existing affordable housing.

The stark reality to de Blasio’s housing plan is that it would produce a minimal number of affordable housing units while doing absolutely nothing to preserve the this biggest pool of rent-regulated, affordable housing – existing rent-stabilized apartments.

Instead of stricter rent regulations, old solutions and radical policies, we know exactly what de Blasio needs to do to protect the most vulnerable tenants and preserve affordable housing.

If City Hall really wants to make an impact on protecting and preserving affordable housing, then we propose that de Blasio freeze – or even roll back – property tax assessments and water and sewer rates.

We believe this is a practical and immediate solution. It is well-documented that the owners of Class 2 rental properties, which house all rent-stabilized tenants, pay proportionately higher real estate taxes than any other structure classifications in New York.

Ever increasing property taxes (a 13% increase in assessments for 2015 was announced earlier this year by de Blasio) and water and sewer rates are driving rents higher. Holding the line on property tax assessments and water and sewer rates by either a freeze or roll back would relieve the pressure on landlords to increase rents.

It would also provide the financial wherewithal that enables landlords to re-invest in their buildings – making repairs, upgrades and improvements that translate directly into protecting and preserving affordable housing for the tenants who need it most… poor and working families

Furthermore, a recent study on the economic impact of rent-stabilized housing showed that $19.4 billion was generated in 2014 from expenditures on capital improvements and overall operating costs in rent-stabilized buildings.

This directly translated into work for thousands of small neighborhood businesses, over 160,000 jobs for local residents, millions of dollars in payroll and sales tax, and support for neighborhood economies.

This infusion of capital – the economic impact of improvements, upgrades and repairs – is felt directly in our neighborhoods. Landlords give this work to local contracting companies, plumbers, electricians, painters and laborers – and this translates into good-paying jobs for neighborhood residents who provide for their families and support local restaurants and retail shops.

Clearly, owners of rent-stabilized apartments contribute greatly to preserving and protecting existing affordable housing. They are the backbone and fabric of our neighborhoods. But City Hall can’t have it both ways – supporting rent freezes and stricter rent regulations in Albany while raising real estate taxes and water rates.

If de Blasio continues to burden landlords of rent-stabilized apartments with the highest property taxes and water and sewer rates – in tandem with his support of rent freezes and stricter state rent regulations – investment in our neighborhoods and re-investment in affordable housing will dry up.

It is time to consider new solutions to an old problem – or City Hall could ultimately bring the city’s housing stock for poor and working families back to the bad old days of the late 1970’s and 1980’s.

Strasburg is president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 owners of 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs.