The latest New York City Housing and Vacancy survey estimates that last year 26,310 rent-stabilized apartments were “vacant but unavailable for rent,” down from about 43,000 in the same survey two years ago. Even with that post-pandemic decline, that’s nearly as many rent stabilized units held off the market as the 33,210 units of any type of housing that the Census Bureau estimated to be available for rent between January and July 2023, when it last conducted the survey. The new numbers won’t put to rest an ongoing debate between tenant advocates and landlords about why so many rent stabilized apartments remain vacant. Landlords say that many units are off the market because they need substantial renovation after being vacated by long-term tenants — repairs that are cost-prohibitive because of 2019 changes to state rent regulations that make it impossible to recoup the investment needed. The reforms sharply limited the ways landlords could raise rents on vacant apartments and prohibited the removal of apartments from regulation in most cases.
The obvious question should be why Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams are not pushing for immediate warrants for each of the 26,000 units, coordinating with the NYPD to inspect every single one asap, and handing out massive fines and criminal charges if landlords are found to be illegally keeping apartments off market and collecting tax-write offs or colluding with other landlords.