Internet resources for what you need to know on NYC Housing
Favorite Sites For Beginners

The Topic
Housing refers to all dwellings in NYC - from luxury condos with views of the Park to battered in-rem apartments in the South Bronx - and the laws and policy disputes that they produce.
The Context
The percentage of vacant and available housing stock in NYC has never exceeded 4.01%. This extraordinary housing scarcity makes for the highest rents in the US. Unlike citizens of most big American cities, where slightly over half of units are owner-occupied, more than two-thirds of New Yorkers are renters. And - bucking the national trend again - more than two-thirds of New York apartments are rent-regulated in some way. The housing crunch shows no sign of easing up, as new construction is impeded by the highest building costs in the nation. Of the little new construction that does occur in NYC, the vast majority takes advantage of some government subsidy or exemption. Also to note: the city within a city that is New York's 170,000 units of public housing - by far the largest amount of public housing anywhere in America.
The Reporter
Rebecca Webber is a journalist who has covered housing issues for Gotham Gazette since July 2000.
The Archives
See past monthly updates for Housing.

by Rebecca Webber

Possible Rise In Property Taxes (i.e. Rents); Rise In Homelessness

To help cover the city's budget deficit, the Bloomberg administration may increase property taxes by as much as 12 percent this year and 25 percent next year. The property tax is the only city tax that the mayor and City Council can raise without the approval of the state. Council members have reported that the administration has solicited their opinions on a potential increase.

If property taxes rise, homeowners and building owners will not be the only ones paying a bigger bill.

"It will translate directly into rent increases," says Michael McKee, associate director of New York State Tenants And Neighbors Coalition, a tenant advocacy group. "The landlord pays it out of the rents he collects. A property tax increase would result in higher rent increases for just about every category of tenant."

Even rent-regulated tenants would be affected by a property tax increase. The tax makes up about 25 percent of the operating and maintenance costs that the Rent Guidelines Board. considers when establishing annual allowable rent increases. Furthermore, due to the intricacies of the property tax law, rental properties shoulder a higher tax burden than most other residential categories (see New York's Secret Tax.

New York State Tenants And Neighbors will await a formal property tax proposal before announcing its position, but, said McKee, "We might very likely oppose it."

In a rare instance of agreement, landlord groups, such as the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents the real estate industry's interests to the city, state and federal government, also oppose the prospect of a large property tax increase.

"We've said that we would pay a fair share, but a vast real property tax would, in our view, be a very bad thing for the city," said Warren Wechsler, of the Real Estate Board. "Businesses would pack up and go, and residents would pack up and go, and there would be fewer people paying the freight."

A large increase in the property tax would make New York City even less competitive in terms of its tax burdens, said Wechsler. "It would also, in one way or another, impose costs on owners of rental properties that could make it hard to maintain services and keep their buildings up," he said.

Budget watchers believe that spending cuts will come first, and the city will appeal to the state and federal governments for financial assistance. Still, New Yorkers may well end up with some form of tax increase. If the property tax gets the nod, for many, it will come disguised as a rent bill.

More Homeless on the Streets and in the Shelters

Cooler weather has arrived and with it, increasing concern about the number of homeless people on the streets of the city. Anecdotal evidence says that street homelessness is on the rise, and the Department of Homeless Services has seen a corresponding increase in the number of single adults requesting shelter.

The average daily census has been increasing by about 200 people per month over the last few months. While such increases always occur as winter approaches, current numbers are much higher than they have been in past years.

In September 1999, the city sheltered an average of 6,586 single adults each night. This September, it housed an average of 7,650. The Department of Homeless Services has plans to conduct a census of the street homeless, typically single adults who avoid the shelter system, as part of its strategic plan. The agency is overwhelmed by the ever-increasing numbers of homeless families requesting shelter.

"On the family side, the growth has been so accelerated and exceptional," said Jim Anderson of the Department of Homeless Services. "As a result, we needed to open just under 2,000 new units of family shelter since January."

Just one year ago, there were about 6,500 families in need of shelter on a typical night. Now, there are nearly 9,000.

Sites For Beginners:

Other Recommendations:

  • The Rent Guidelines Board - Comprehensive apartment-hunting guide for beginners or old hands. Great links to research and data on NYC housing, including the 1996 Housing and Vacancy Survey.
  • City Limits - Investigative reporting about housing and other issues facing New York's low-income communities for 22 years. Archives available to 1996.
  • The Cooperator - Free online magazine for co-op and condo dwellers. Articles on current news affecting co-ops and condos, such as utilities deregulation or indictments of corrupt management companies, change monthly. Includes helpful Q&A sections in which tenant questions are answered by lawyers and accountants, and a reference library of detailed advice on topics such as building finance or selling your unit.
  • NYU Law School Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy - A detailed summary of the NYU Law School Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy's report "Reducing the Cost of New Housing Construction in New York City." Also features links to other research and the Center's programs and events.
  • Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve - HUD and the Urban Institute's new survey of homeless people and the service providers who work with them every day provides an intimate portrait of homelessness across America. Those surveyed revealed that more than 40% of homeless people work at least part time, 39% struggle with mental illness, and about a third of the homeless are now or were once child runaways. Only 8% are panhandlers.
  • Mr. Landlord - The Internet Resource for Landlords and Landladies. This comprehensive site offers a wealth of resources and free advice on do-it-yourself rental property management. Visitors can find help with setting up a webpage for their own rental ads or locating sample rent agreement forms. Its services also include a Q&A interactive discussion among fellow landlords; tax, mortgage and rent calculators; and a free weekly e-newsletter on management techniques.
  • Realty Times - This archive of free articles from the Realty Times, a realtors' professional publication, offers advice on issues of concern to apartment dwellers. Articles cover many legal concerns such as how to rent with roommates and tenants' rights to minor repairs, plus simple ideas on interior dicor or what to do if neighbors are noisy. The main page, http://realtimes.com, contains links on other residential real estate topics of interest to consumers, including mortgages and "The Truth About Condo Living."

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