Saturday, September 06, 2008


Currently, rent stabilized or controlled tenants may be evicted from a building if the landlord wishes to demolish or gut renovate it. The landlord must provide compensation to the tenant. DHCR, the state agency that oversees housing, will accept comments until September 30 on the proposed definition of "demolition" and the formula for compensation to tenants evicted for such a demolition. The proposals are summarized at the end of this post along with the DHCR address.

My view:
owners have the right to develop their property, tenants have the right to protection. If owners were required to relocate regulated tenants locally in comparable space at comparable rent, and to offer them the right to return after redevelopment is completed (again, to comparable space at comparable rent) landlords would be free to redevelop their property, tenants would remain protected, and no landlord would be able to use demolition solely to remove rent regulated tenants.

In addition, the owner should provide upfront an insurance fund for maintaining its commitment to the tenant until the redevelopment is completed. Currently, a landlord must prove his financial ability to complete the redevelopment before DHCR will permit a demolition. That financial proof should include the financial ability to fulfill his commitment to the regulated tenants. The state itself should assume responsibility for tenants in case the redevelopment is not completed. That would provide incentive to the state to oversee redevelopment properly.

Required to keep their regulated tenants, landlords would demolish only for significantly profitable expansions. The question of compensation would not arise and the definition of "demolition" would be irrelevant, since it would be more cost-effective to renovate or expand without evicting.

Other views:
some object to DHCR's definition of demolition as too lenient, tenant compensation too low and not offered for long enough. Demolition should be to the ground, they say, and compensation should be based on local market-rate rents and offered for ten years, not the proposed six years. They believe that requiring a landlord to demolish all the walls will significantly deter demolitions. Higher compensation for a longer period would be more fair in current market conditions and also deter demolitions.

Neither one of these deterrents seems to me as effective or as fair as a relocation requirement. If the goal is to prevent landlords from using demolition merely to eliminate rent regulated tenants, then the fitting remedy should be to require them to keep the rent regulated tenants, and let that be the deterrent. Cynically pro-landlord as DHCR's definition of "demolition" is, revising it doesn't solve the problem. Relocation and return do.

Summary of DHCR's Proposals
DHCR proposes that a demolition be at least "the complete gutting of all interior space in the building from the ground floor and above and including the removal of the building’s roofs and of all internal building systems. However, a demolition under this subparagraph shall not require the removal of the outer walls and structural supports of a building."

DHCR proposes that tenants evicted for such a demolition receive a stipend of the difference between their rent and the average stabilized rent of the zip code plus 20% (to bring it closer to market-rates).

DHCR, Office of Rent Administration
Attention: Michael Berrios, Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissoner
Gertz Plaza
92-31 Union Hall Street
Jamaica, New York 11433

Commissioner Gregg Fewer
Gertz Plaza
92-31 Union Hall Street
Jamaica, New York 11433

Deputy Commissioner Liz Torres
Gertz Plaza
92-31 Union Hall Street
Jamaica, New York 11433


Anonymous said...

so the tenant who is a renter at below market rates who has not invested any of their own savings into the building or neighborhood should have rights of protection equal and in some ways stronger than the owner of the building?

I dont see it.

You are a renter and if the owner wants to redevelop the building you should have to find your own apartment yourself.

rob said...

The stipend is in part a disincentive to such redevelopment as would erode the stock of affordable housing. Affordable housing helps prevent our society from declining into the extremes of economic difference that, when we read about them in histories, shock and appall.

It's all about regulating to balance conflicting rights. Consider:

"No pharmaceutical company should be held responsible for dangerous side effects of a cheaper version of a drug it produces. You are a buyer; if it harms you, and you can't afford better quality, drop dead.

"Public transportation should not be responsible for getting you to your destination. You are a commuter. If you can't pay for a cab, walk."

Wherever the supply of wealthy renters is great, rent inequity will be magnified. That's why it is so damned expensive to live in New York.

Providing a public amenity engages certain responsibilities. If you take on the responsibility of housing people on your property, you have to accept the burden. The whole purpose of housing legislation is to balance property rights along with the interests of the housed. The balance should benefit our social fabric as an integral body politic and should protect the fundamental rights and interests of individuals.

You are a building owner. If you don't want to accept the responsibilities that accompany providing renters a secure home, go buy a commercial building. It's not like the government or the economy is forcing you to own residential buildings or any buildings.

Owning a multiple dwelling is not like owning a shoe. It's more like owning a piece of an aqueduct that others use. It's partly a public responsibility. You can make it pretty, you can leave it plain; you can build a bridge over it. But you shouldn't be allowed to dump your business waste into it, no matter how much money it saves you. You can divest your responsibilities by selling it. If you want something to step on, buy a shoe.

What I mean is: property interests are not the only interests that should be protected as "rights."

parasitic tenant said...

tenants have invested their savings into the buildings and neighborhoods they live in. it's called RENT. it's called TAXES. and quite honestly, it's a zero return investment, since most of the time we are paying for what should be luxuries but given subhuman living conditions instead.

I suggest that owners invest in us by paying their tenants to live in the shithole slum buildings that the vast majority of us live in.

Anonymous said...


has any recommendations or policy come of this yet?