By Cezary Podkul
Anyone who’s ever rented in New York City knows how hard it is to get reliable information about an apartment. How much has the unit rented for in the past? Does the building’s history entitle tenants to rent-regulated leases? If so, for how long?
These are important questions that every renter should be able to answer before they sign a lease. Except that there’s no one place to find the information.
But there could be. And, in fact, according to New York law, for many apartments, there should be.
Since 2007, there’s been a statute on the books that requires the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to collect and make public key data on the thousands of new apartments built each year under the city’s single-biggest housing subsidy. But the provision has been ignored by HPD: The agency simply hasn’t done it.
The requirement is part of section 421-a of New York’s property tax law — the legislation that can slash landlords’ tax bills by upwards of 90 percent. In exchange, owners of the estimated 83,000 city apartments covered by the tax break must agree to limit rent increases on all their tenants and set aside a portion of the units for “affordable” below-market rents in certain high-priced city neighborhoods.
The housing department’s decision to ignore the law’s reporting requirement has deprived New Yorkers of vital information on the apartment buildings that benefit from the subsidy, which costs taxpayers $1.2 billion a year in lost revenues.