The Lessor Evil

A new online data tool from a leading housing advocacy group, the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), indicates that Lower Manhattan is undergoing a gradual, but inexorable, transformation: Affordable housing, in the form of rent-regulated apartments, is steadily disappearing from the local landscape.

ANHD’s Displacement Alert Map, which went live earlier this week, provides interactive data about thousands of rental properties throughout the five boroughs. When this map is used to zoom in on Lower Manhattan, dozens of apartment buildings are shown in red, indicating that their inventory of rent-stabilized units has dwindled precipitously in the ten years leading up to 2016.

Among the most dramatic cases in point are 90 West Street (which had 94 stabilized apartments in 2007, but just seven in 2017), 90 Washington Street (which contained 97 stabilized units in 2007, and only three in 2016), and 105 Duane Street (which dropped from 440 to 89 stabilized homes in the same period).

But these large buildings are only part of the story. Many other smaller structures have declined in similar percentage terms during the same interval. The building at 71 West Street went from 17 stabilized apartments to seven (a falloff of 59 percent), while 90 John Street slid from 21 stabilized units to just two (a retracement of 90 percent) in the decade leading up to 2016.

The overall picture may be worse than the dire situation illustrated by the Displacement Alert Map, however, because this tabulation does not consider former rental buildings that have converted to condominiums (which have removed more than 1,000 additional apartments from rent stabilization), or non-traditional forms of rent stabilization (such as that in effect at Gateway Plaza).

The are multiple possible reasons for an apartment to cease to offer rent stabilizaiton. They include the expiration of provisions under which landlords offered affordability protections for a limited period, in exchange for official concessions such as tax abatements. In other cases, building owners are believed to file fraudulent documents with City regulators, confident that such discrepancies will seldom be noticed. And specific to Lower Manhattan is the uncertain outlook for the 421-g tax abatement program, which promised Downtown landlords generous tax benefits, in exchange for those building owners agreeing to offer rent stabilization to their tenants. But a series of recent State court rulings have clouded the outlook for this program, and an ultimate victory for building owners could remove as many as 5,000 more Lower Manhattan apartments from stabilization.

The ANHD, which created the Displacement Alert Map, is an umbrella organization of 100 non-profit affordable housing and economic development groups that serve low- and moderate-income residents in all five boroughs of the City.

In previous analyses, ANHD has determined that Lower Manhattan is among the ten most threatened communities anywhere in New York City, when measured by risks to affordability.

To view the Displacement Alert Map, please browse: map.displacementalert.org/

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