In the wake of sweeping, tenant-friendly legislation passed last June, landlord groups predicted that New York City's housing stock would deteriorate and that the new laws would make it too onerous for landlords to pay for upkeep.
But data on basic housing maintenance violations so far shows otherwise, according to numbers gleaned from Open Data and crunched by the Legal Aid Society. According to an analysis by the organization, housing maintenance violations decreased slightly between 2018 and 2019.
"One of the first things that we heard from the landlord groups that the greater tenant protections found in the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act would mean that the landlords would be unable to maintain their buildings," Ellen Davidson, a Legal Aid staff attorney for the Civil Law Reform Unit, told Gothamist. "But it hasn't been backed up with anything. It's just been threats."
Legal Aid's analysis of housing maintenance code violations issued by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development decreased by 2,891 from June 14th to December 31st between 2018 and 2019, a decline of 1 percent. There were 330,828 violations issued in 2018 during that six-and-a-half month period. In 2019, it dropped to 327,937, according to Legal Aid.
The Rent Stabilization Association and the Community Housing Improvement Program sued last July over the new rent-stabilization laws—alleging they violate the constitutional rights of property owners. The groups said the legislation would lead to "lower quality of housing" in rent-stabilized apartments and "punishes hard working tenants and small landlords alike." The Real Estate Board of New York said buildings would "fall into disrepair."
"It's the same threats they've been making for years," Davidson said. Landlords and landlord groups should "show their data instead of just repeating their threats and their complaints."
Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at Legal Aid, added in a statement: "It is important that we continue to debunk claims peddled by critics to undermine these historic reforms."
The new data builds on a previous analysis that found evictions fell by 18 percent between the same time period in 2018 and 2019. A Wall Street Journal analysis in December, however, found a 44 percent drop in renovations and building improvements in rent-regulated buildings from July to November between 2018 and 2019. Legal Aid's latest analysis looks at maintenance violations the HPD issues.
A Rent Stabilization Association spokesperson said in a statement to Gothamist, "We never said owners would cease complying with basic building maintenance." The spokesperson said it's too early to draw such correlations and emphasized that the legislation changes how much landlords can up the rent for improvements, rather than routine maintenance, known as Individual Apartment Improvements and Major Capital Improvements.
"It’s way [too] soon to draw any correlation between the HSTPA and a minuscule decline in the violation count," the RSA spokesperson said. "We have said from the outset that the full adverse impact of the HSTPA would become evident over time, as the elimination of the incentives for individual apartment improvements and building wide improvements result in declining building conditions."
HPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Legal Aid's data analysis.
UPDATE, 2:50 p.m. on January 22nd: After publication of this article, the Real Estate Board of New York provided a statement to Gothamist stating REBNY and other groups' had found that within five years, landlords would face issues affording to maintain their properties. More than 414,000 units would be at risk of "heating outages, vermin infestations, mold and other housing quality issues," a presentation the groups' analyses say.
REBNY's president James Whelan said in a statement: "It’s unfortunate that groups are deliberately seeking to distort our data-driven, policy based analysis. We stated that within five years, as owner expenses including taxes and maintenance continue to rise at rates that far exceed their income, it will become impossible to afford to maintain their properties at levels that tenants expect and deserve. That's not a prediction, that’s mathematics."