Aren’t the millionaire landlords more the problem?

BY BRANDON KIELBASA   |  I’m always glad to see media coverage of housing issues that affect working-class New Yorkers. That said, it bothered me to see the off-base examination of rent stabilization put forth by a number of local media outlets within the last several weeks.

Several articles reported that potentially thousands of millionaires are living in rent-stabilized apartments throughout New York City. Although that seems jarring at first glance, if you delve a bit deeper, it reveals itself to be of exaggerated significance and a distraction from the more important issue: the continued disappearance of affordable housing in New York City.

I understand that these recent articles could only be so comprehensive — rent stabilization is somewhat complicated after all — but they still failed to mention a key point about stabilization: It is not a taxpayer-funded subsidy program. People can take issue with wealthy New Yorkers having stabilized apartments, but it should be known that we are not “footing the bill” for them doing so.

It’s also worth noting that although rent stabilization has no formal system for distributing units based on income, it’s definitely not a program that ultra-high income renters regularly benefit from. Through a quick examination of the statistics cited in these recent articles, the potential millionaires who are reported to be living in stabilized units make up merely 0.2 percent of the total stock of this housing.

Rent stabilization provides close to 1 million units of housing for the nearly 2.5 million New Yorkers it protects. Tenants living in stabilized housing earn on average roughly $37,000 a year and also regularly face tenant harassment by the speculative landlords.

I believe that instead of taking issue with these incredibly uncommon millionaire cases, we should instead take issue with the eradication of stabilized housing units occurring in droves throughout the city.

We should also be paying attention to who reaps financial benefit from destabilization. When rent-stabilized apartments are removed from the system, frequently millionaire and multimillionaire landlords are the ones reaping huge profits through the destabilization of these units. Working-class New Yorkers get nothing from the removal of this stabilized, affordable housing from their communities. They only lose.

Over two-thirds of New York City’s households are renters, the highest percentage of any major city in America. In a city that consistently has one of the world’s most competitive rental markets, I recommend we not focus on exceptional flukes — such as these millionaire cases — but instead on how to create and preserve more affordable housing for working-class New Yorkers.

—  Kielbasa is lead organizer, Cooper Square Committee

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