“The landlord is just a collection agent for the city,” CHIP head argues

“Any elected official calling for rent forgiveness, without more, can’t be taken seriously:” Jay Martin

CHIP's Jay Martin 
CHIP's Jay Martin

The head of an influential New York landlord group has called for city and state officials to think about both sides of the housing coin when crafting policies in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tenants and landlords alike are facing a true emergency, and we need our state and local leaders to act like leaders — instead of politicizing the situation or caricaturing one camp, landlords, as evildoers,” Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, wrote Monday in a New York Post op-ed.

Martin, whose organization has more than 4,000 landlord members who together control about 400,000 of the city’s rent-regulated apartments, called for the government to provide zero-interest loans for shuttered small businesses and tax-free rent vouchers “tied directly to unemployment claims for residential tenants.”

“Any elected official pushing to suspend all rent collection without also putting in place measures to suspend operational expenses is only solving half the problem,” he wrote. “Any elected official calling for rent forgiveness, without more, can’t be taken seriously.”

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This week, State Sen. Michael Gianaris proposed a bill that would impose a 90-day suspension of rents for small-business and residential tenants who are out of work because of the coronavirus. The bill would also forgive mortgage payments for landlords experiencing financial hardship as a result. But real-estate interests have pushed for more drastic measures.

The Rent Stabilization Association, another landlord trade group, called for the city to foot the bill for unpaid rent, and is pushing for a “dollar-for-dollar offset” in the form of a property tax abatement for the lost rents.

“Short of this, the rental housing industry — the biggest economic engine in New York City — will collapse faster than the stock market,” Joseph Strasburg, president of the RSA, said in a statement.

Real estate is the largest contributor to the city’s tax base, with the Citizens Budget Commission projecting that property taxes brought in $24 billion of revenue for the city in fiscal year 2017, or 44 percent of all city tax revenue.

“The landlord is just a collection agent for the city,” Martin wrote. “Over the next few months, New Yorkers will find out what they’ve been paying for.” [NYP] — TRD Staff