A Look at NYC’s Rent Stabilized Units in Historic and Landmark Districts

Does historic district designation preserve rent-stabilized units?

New York—The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) released a report revealing that over the last seven years, the decline in the number of rent-regulated apartments located within New York City’s historic districts was four times higher compared to non-landmarked areas of the city.

“Preservationists have claimed that historic district designation preserves rent-stabilized units,” Mike Slattery, REBNY’s senior vice president, told MHN. “Our analysis of the rent-stabilized inventory in 2007 and again in 2014 shows that the net loss of rent-stabilized units was greater in historic districts than in non-landmarked properties.”

The report shows that citywide, landmarked properties lost rent-stabilized units (-22.5 percent) at a much higher rate (-5.1 percent) than non-landmarked properties.

Typically, the city gains rent-regulated units through the construction or conversion of new housing. Previous studies have shown that new housing is less likely to be created in landmarked neighborhoods. However, the percentage of rent stabilized units lost in Greenwich Village (25 percent) and the Upper West Side/Central Park West (33 percent) Historic Districts present compelling evidence that landmark designation does not preserve rent stabilized units. Combined, these two historic districts had 30 percent fewer rent-stabilized units at the end of the seven-year period analyzed.

During a 10-year period of time (2003-2012) only five new units of affordable housing were built in Manhattan landmark districts, which comprise nearly 30 percent of the borough. Only 100 new affordable units were constructed in historic districts throughout the City during that time frame. This production accounted for 0.29 percent of all new affordable housing units during that 10-year period.

According to Slattery, further analyses is needed as well as continued, robust public debate. This, he said, will create a more transparent and well-thought out system for designating and maintaining authentic landmark buildings.

“Preserving historically important buildings and neighborhoods is an important part of New York City’s future,” Slattery said. “However, we need a system for designating and maintaining truly historic buildings that is transparent and that helps policymakers balance other, sometimes competing, policy objectives.”