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New York City Landlords Radicalized During the Pandemic

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Photo illustration: Curbs.Photo: Getty

A participant in the landlord rights protest would not give me his full name. One woman said she was worried about harassment. Another claimed she couldn’t go on record because of work. The only exception on October morning was Brian Liff, a sleek 50-year-old software engineer. “The state basically took my property,” he said as a car drove past us outside Kathy Hochul’s Manhattan office. Riff purchased an eight-unit Rent Stabilization building in Harlem just months before New York passed the Housing Stabilization and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. Regulated Tenant. Then came the pandemic, followed by inconvenient little dominoes of state and federal eviction moratoriums. Riff had planned to evict the tenants of his four occupied units in the building and build a fully equipped family home himself, but that is now off the table. In his estimation, the last few years had the state telling him, “You must house people against your will.” The dream house has been put off and he says he can’t sell the building for anything close to what he put in, so he can’t even part with the place. He feels trapped by the state.

About 150 protesters standing with him largely agreed on that point. The consensus among the crowd was that prejudice against landlords had reached an enthusiastic pitch and was coming from all directions: governors, state legislatures, courts and the general public.

Nearly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, millions of tenants have gone on rent strikes, both declared and de facto. Joining a Tenant Association And the building association swelled.Somewhere in this tension between renters and owners, more landlords are publicly the language of a protected class ignored or, worse, by elected officialsThe war was reflected in the media: in New York daily newsreal estate agents I have written Sort of between a struggling tenant, who claims that “landlords are human too,” and a struggling landlord who “was barely able to meet the food, housing, and utility needs of his own family.” He argued for economic symmetry.

Estimate 28 percent Of the 2.3 million rental properties in New York City, fewer than 5 are owned by landlords who own the property. As of 2019, 13 percent units were rented out by landlords with only one home in their portfolio. even so, This part of the industry has become the face of a new political identity among property owners. An underdog landlord, a struggling small operator held back by the political status quo. They are drowning in debt, at risk of losing their homes due to delinquent payments and rent caps, and face routine abuse from their tenants and public disrespect. And that morning the gathered landlords were ready to fight back.

there now An estimated 569,000 tenants In New York State, it owes $2.4 million in accumulated rent.This debt has been exacerbated as the city’s rents have risen during the pandemic and skyrocketed over the past year. tax increase, jumbled up the budget sheet. Net operating income for landlords nearly plummeted, according to a report released earlier this year by the Rent Guidelines Commission, a nine-member body that sets rent adjustments in the city’s stabilizing housing stock. eight percent the past year.and according to JP Morgan internal data analysisIn 2020, small and medium-sized landlords in New York lost more rental income than most other landlords in the country as residents lost their jobs or simply fled. More than 1 in 7 were behind on their housing payments at least once. Landlords say the burden they face is enormous. Largest rent increase Ten years was not enough to complete a stable housing. “The adjustments approved by RGB today will not put a penny in the pocket of a small property owner,” said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a landlord advocacy group. said in a post-decision statement from the board. Vote in June. “RGB has only taken steps to limit its losses next year.”

CHIP launched a campaign earlier this year to draw attention to what members say about their predicament after the 2019 rent reform. On Twitter and TikTok, the group regularly shares photos of their empty, trashed apartments. In his 20 years before HSTPA was passed, landlords owning vacant rent-regulated apartments could raise their rents by up to 20%, allowing for the cost of major facility improvements. Once the rent reached a certain amount, those units were deregulated and converted into market rate units with no rent cap.A combination of two allowances in the middle 345,000 apartments demolished From the rent stabilization roll, according to the nonprofit Community Service Society, which advocates progressive policies. According to CHIP, the elimination of these so-called vacancy bonuses put small landlords at a disadvantage when tenants moved out decades later and left their apartments in disrepair. “It’s expensive to renovate an apartment,” he said. video It shows a messy apartment and the camera pans over a dingy bathroom with missing tiles. (A-ha’s “Take On Me” provides the soundtrack.) The organization claims it can’t raise the rent. It’s about upgrading the apartment to current housing standards and returning it to rent,” says Martin.

Implicit in all claims of impotence is real power, and these campaigns can sound threatening. A group of landlords protesting in front of Hochul’s office said an internal survey found 44% of small property owners would never rent their units again, given their experiences with tenants. Similarly, CHIP’s campaign touts the fact that landlords are choosing to keep thousands of affordable apartments vacant out of frustration with the potential return on investment. I’m here. The landlord claims he loses money renting a unit at regulated rates after being forced to pay over $75,000 for necessary repairs.

Beyond protests and social media campaigns, landlord groups have sought relief through the courts. Shortly after the 2019 Rent Act was passed, CHIP and other landlord groups filed a nearly 100-page lawsuit against the Rent Guidelines Commission and the city of New York challenging the new Rent Act. They argued that they circumvented the proceedings and violated the landlord’s Fifth Amendment right to adequate compensation. They claim that the law limits their control over their units so severely that it represents a takeover of any property they own. “We are clearly entering the court system with a view to reaching the Supreme Court,” Strasberg said. Said at the time. “And we recognize that this is a long road.”

The rise of the pissed-off little landlord is complicated by the fact that the little landlord seems so unusual.average new york landlord Owns about 900 vehicles, according to an analysis by housing nonprofit Justfix. It could also be a subsidiary of a large company that owns single-family homes. So while the owner-occupier, who rents out her five remaining units in the building, may feel surrounded by uncooperative tenants and progressive rent laws, the You can easily blame your counterparts. In an economy that favors the wealthy and in a situation where buying and leasing property is as much about securing a recurring return on investment as it is about providing a stable place to live, small property owners becoming a minority. (If a detached house operated as a business goes bankrupt, increasingly possible It is also difficult to clearly quantify a landlord’s net loss or profit. The information that is publicly available about your business as a New York City landlord is largely limited to what the New York City landlord deems appropriate to share.Affordable Housing Researchers and Development organization Landlords have long been criticized for grossly exaggerating the losses incurred by making necessary structural or cosmetic repairs.

One of those organizations, the New York Community Service Society, is a non-profit organization with progressive policies. published the analysis Anticipate a mortgage crisis and you’ll see pandemic-related rent arrears. But the villains of the study aren’t the lazy tenants: for more than two decades, the majority of landlords have been betting on a market they believe is on the rise, increasing rents and building more and more equity loans on their buildings. I’ve done it. It’s appreciated by the minute. Between 2008 and 2010, median debt levels in most areas of New York increased by 100-200%, according to researchers. “They were gambling in their buildings in the first place,” says CSS policy analyst Sam Stein.

In many cases, landlords used that equity to buy another property, and by 2018, the home was worth more than $1,000, according to the report. 6 times more than 2000As Stein’s colleague Jacob Udel testified before the Rent Guidelines Committee this spring, mortgage data suggests that most New York multifamily refinancing schemes “continue to keep the building utilized and reduce property value appreciation.” It indicates that it is configured to “profit”. For example, income from valuable assets rather than reinvesting in aging units that require lead reduction. The tragedy of struggling landlords isn’t the pandemic or the 2019 rent law woes, they say. It’s on the losing side of a risky bet. And when your business as a landlord gets too volatile, you can almost always sell your valuable assets and walk away.

When CSS released the report, according to Stein, landlord groups “saw us saying: push the little landlord off a cliffBut he argues that one solution will serve struggling tenants and struggling landlords alike. The government “must intervene,” he says. Government intervention could, in theory, offer an aggravated landlord class freedom from the economic ruin they describe, as well as a place to live as tenants.

The proposal doesn’t seem likely to appeal to landlords who marched to Hochul’s office. Lee Zeldin had been invited to the protest that morning, but ultimately did not turn up. But Stefano Forte, the frontrunner for the New York State Senate from the Republican Party, emerged to speak to the crowd, a private property hype man. “I want to get the American dream that I was promised!” he cheered. “Together we protect our property rights!”

Demonstrators shouted, “Give me back my property!” A man nearby bobbed up a sign depicting smug-looking cartoon tenants tipping the scales of justice in their favor. but expected CHIP’s lawsuit to find traction as it made its way through the system. building stories to lobby groups to include in their complaints. Since then, he has said that heindentured landlord“At some point, courts will realize that property owner’s right of exclusion is the primary definition of property ownership,” Riffe told me. “If you can’t eliminate someone, do you own it?”

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