Rip REBNY rent / landmarks study as ‘ludicrous’

BY YANNIC RACK   |  Preservationists last week slammed a new study that proclaims to prove that landmarking has a detrimental effect on affordable housing, with Greenwich Village and other historic neighborhoods in New York losing their rent-regulated apartments at a much faster rate than other parts of the city.

The data analyzed by the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade association, shows that, from 2007 to 2014, the decline in the number of rent-regulated apartments within landmarked properties was four times higher than in non-landmarked parts of the city.

“Contrary to statements made by advocates, affordable housing is not preserved at higher levels in NYC’s historic districts,” concludes the report, “Rent Stabilized Units in Landmarked Properties.”

“The data shows that properties located within New York City’s historic districts showed a greater net loss of rent-regulated apartments than those located in non-landmarked parts of the city.”

The historic districts that had the highest decline of rent-stabilized units, according to the study, include Greenwich Village, with a loss of 1,432 units over seven years, or more than 25 percent of the neighborhood’s rent-stabilized apartments.

But the author of the study’s data last week refuted the conclusion made by REBNY and said that, to the contrary, the numbers show that landmarked areas actually preserve their rent-stabilized units at a higher rate than non-landmarked areas in the same neighborhood.

“I am disappointed to see REBNY claim the rent-stabilization data I gathered proves that landmarking does not protect rent stabilized apartments,” said John Krauss, who collected the numbers from “scraped” tax bills available online.

He explained that most apartments leave stabilization through “high-rent vacancy decontrol,” which occurs when an apartment’s rent is higher than $2,700 when a new lease is signed. He also added that the study released by REBNY does not take neighborhood rents into account.

“All they have shown is that landmark areas have higher rent,” he said. “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.”

Krauss countered that comparing the changes in the number of rent-stabilized units between 2007 and 2014 by community board actually shows that landmarked areas preserved their stabilized units better than non-landmarked areas in many neighborhoods.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, similarly called the real estate group’s study highly misleading.

“REBNY’s claim that because of landmark designation more rent-stabilized units are being lost in neighborhoods like Greenwich Village or Brooklyn Heights than in Washington Heights or Brownsville, is as ludicrous as it is irresponsible and false,” the preservationist said in a statement.

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

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