Policy

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”