Affordable Housing in Hiding

Elected officials and tenant advocates keep up the fight to end warehousing of stabilized units

NYC Council Member Carlina Riveraspeaks at the November 3rd City Hall rally calling to end the practice of affordable apartment warehousing.  Among those pictured are (l to r): Luz Rosero, pres. of United Neighbors Organization (UNO) and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso Photo credit: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Calls to end the warehousing of vacant, rent-stabilized apartment units that began in 2020 continue to echo through the streets. The most recent rally took place on November 3 outside of City Hall to shed light on how many affordable units are being kept from the public and push for action.

The one-hundred-person crowd consisted of several housing advocates including tenants, NYC Council Members Lincoln Restler and Carlina Rivera, and organizations that make up the End Warehousing Coalition including St. Nicks Alliance, Southside United HDFC – Los Sures, United Neighbors Organization (UNO), and Communities Resist (CoRe).

The main aim of warehousing is to keep affordable housing from the people who need it most.  Housing advocates and supporters protest to call attention to this practice in order to end it.

“Landlords of rent-stabilized, desperately needed housing have admitted to holding at least 40,000 units–many of which are deeply affordable–off of the market as political leverage in a cynical gambit to reinstate vacancy bonuses,” said NYS Assembly Member Emily Gallagher. “This behavior is exacerbating the shortage of affordable housing in New York and putting even more families at risk of displacement and homelessness.”

According to an article in The City published on October 20, 2022, an estimated 1 of 10 rent-regulated units were vacant in 2021. According to Census survey data the count was 88,830 vacant rent-stabilized apartments in 2021, but landlords only reported 61,000 vacancies.

Photo credit: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Another issue with warehousing is that the lack of inspection to the units being held can lead to issues for surrounding tenants such as mold and vermin.

“Tenants shouldn’t have to go to sleep each night to the sound of rats scratching at the walls without hope of recourse,” said Samuel Chiera, spokesperson for Communities Resist.

The ultimate goal of the movement to end warehousing is to successfully urge lawmakers to rent out the empty apartments that some landlords are unreasonably stowing away and pass a bill called Intro 195, sponsored by NYC Council Member Rivera. Intro 195 would require vacant units to be registered with the New York City Department of Preservation and Development (HPD) and require inspection of at least fifteen percent of them for violations. This information would also be forwarded to the Speaker of the NYC Council annually.

In addition, CoRe stated that as part of Intro 195, they have been working with the End Warehousing campaign and Rivera to allow tenants complain to 311 of poor conditions spilling over from vacant units and require the owner to schedule an inspection of the unit within three weeks. The bill has yet to be amended.

“For too long, landlords have used unjust tactics as a way to force tenants out of their homes, and in the midst of a housing crisis, they are sitting on units that could be of use to the community,” said NYC Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez. “[Intro 195 is] the first step towards holding these bad actors accountable and restoring our desperately needed housing stock.”

NYC Council Member Lincoln Restler wants landlords to be accountable in accurately reporting their vacancies.  Photo credit: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

NYC Council Member Lincoln Restler said: “It is egregious and unacceptable that tens of thousands of affordable apartments are sitting vacant despite the affordability crisis in New York City being worse than ever. We need to hold landlords accountable to ensure housing is actually occupied and I am proud to cosponsor NYC Council Member Rivera’s legislation and efforts in Albany to end warehousing and provide affordable to neighbors in need.”

Those who are interested in joining the End Apartment Warehousing Coalition, have warehoused units in their own building, or want to learn more, can contact ckentdaggett@stnicksalliance.org with questions and inquiries.

Author: Kassondra Gonzalez

Communications Associate and Contributor of the Greenline.

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