Rent Stabilization & Historic Neighborhoods: The Real Story

 

REBNY’s Latest Report Swings & Misses
This week, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) released an unscholarly report claiming that historic districts are injurious to the retention of rent-stabilized apartments in New York City (“Landmarking does not protect affordable housing, report says”).

We checked the facts, and what we found was that REBNY not only released a misleading statement, but also violated the data source’s terms and conditions by effectively abusing the numbers by not providing all underlying data. Thus, false conclusions from disparate statistics were drawn incorrectly to create fear and spread misinformation about the mere 3% of New York City properties that are protected by landmarking.

The report left sparse citations and no data set to fact-check, so our friends and colleagues at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) spoke to John Krauss, the author of the data used by REBNY in their recent report “Rent Stabilized Units in Landmarked Properties.” Krauss refuted the conclusions of REBNY’s study, and generated a more accurate analysis of the data which showed that landmarked areas actually often preserved their rent stabilized units at a higher rate than their non-landmarked counterparts in the same neighborhood.

Said John Krauss (john@johnkrauss.com), the source of the dataset used by REBNY:

“I am disappointed to see REBNY claim the rent stabilization data I gathered from tax bills proves that landmarking does not protect rent stabilized apartments. Most apartments leave stabilization through “high-rent vacancy” decontrol, which requires that the rent of an apartment be higher than $2,700 when a new lease is signed. Their study does not control for neighborhood rents. All they have shown is that landmark areas have higher rent. The loss of regulated units in such areas could have been worse without landmarking. Without landmarks, developers would be incentivized to buy out existing stabilized tenants and replace the buildings.

Comparing changes in non-421a rent stabilization between 2007 and 2014 by community board shows that landmark areas preserved their stabilized units better than their non-landmark counterparts in many neighborhoods. The Upper East Side (CB8), for example, lost over 28% of its stabilized units in non-landmark buildings (14,996 registered in 2007 and 10,755 in 2014), but less than 10% in landmark buildings (2,461 registered in 2007, 2,215 in 2014). This data can be found here.

Furthermore, many stabilized units from 421a in new buildings are not affordable. Looking at the same tax bills REBNY did, it’s easy to find new buildings, 100% stabilized, whose average rent per unit is estimated by the Department of Finance to be upwards of $4000/month. New construction of stabilized units does not mean affordability.

I am also disappointed that REBNY has violated the stabilization data’s terms and conditions. The stabilization data is clearly marked as being under a CC-by-SA license, which requires that in addition to attribution they must share their report and data under the same license. Their report does not include the underlying data, and does not include a CC-by-SA license statement as required. I look forward to their amending the report to be in compliance with the data’s terms and conditions.”

In a city where real estate is king, New Yorkers are fortunate to have the right to beautiful, historic, livable neighborhoods, a right upheld by the Supreme Court. Historic preservation is a proven public good, while affordability is a public burden. Public policy issues like affordability have never had a stake in the private market motivations of REBNY, and the Historic Districts Council is taken aback that REBNY has purported a sudden and disingenuous interest in affordable housing. In fact, RENBY has spent the last two decades pouring millions of dollars into efforts to ensure that affordability measures in New York are blocked, stripped, or repealed, as documented in GVSHP’s report Check the Facts & Consider the Source: Campaign Cash and REBNY’s Real Record on Affordable Housing. It’s important to check the facts.

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, affordable housing advocate and author of “Preservation Can Contribute to Affordability” added:

“REBNY’s claim that because of landmark designation more rent-stabilized units are being lost in neighborhoods like Greenwich Village than in Washington Heights, or in Brooklyn Heights than in Brownsville, is as ludicrous as it is irresponsible and false. A more accurate comparison of the loss of stabilized units in landmarked as compared to non-landmarked areas of the same neighborhood shows that rent stabilized units are often better preserved in the landmarked parts of the neighborhood, which is not a surprise given the anti-demolition protections which come with landmarking.”

REBNY’s disingenuousness is flabbergasting. If they really cared about the loss of rent-regulated units, they would be lobbying for the repeal of vacancy and luxury decontrol, which they helped get instituted in the 1990s, as affordable housing advocates have been doing for years. But they will never do that, because their true agenda is not the preservation of affordable housing, but rather the removal of any impediments to their being able to demolish and build new luxury high-rise anywhere, anytime.

For REBNY, a main architect our city’s affordability crisis, to blame landmarking for the loss of rent regulated units is like pouring gasoline on the house next door, tossing a lighted match, and then pointing to the fire as evidence that your neighbor is a bad caretaker of their property.

It’s no surprise that a group which has spent the last two decades fighting every affordable housing measure in New York would keep churning out statistically unsound and specious reports like this that blame preservation of buildings, of all things, for our city’s affordability crisis and now they are trying to do the same thing with preservation”

Copyright (C) 2015 Historic Districts Counicl All rights reserved.

 

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