TRDxWNYC: Reporter Kathryn Brenzel on surging vacancies

Radio spot covers which units are emptying out and whether rent caps will be lifted

The Real Deal's Kathryn Brenzel and WNYC’s Sean Carlson
The Real Deal's Kathryn Brenzel and WNYC’s Sean Carlson

The apartment vacancy rate in New York City has doubled or tripled, depending on who’s counting. Whatever the number, it’s the highest in memory. The Real Deal senior reporter Kathryn Brenzel appeared on WNYC this morning to discuss what this means for landlords, tenants, and the city’s housing market.

Brenzel noted that the rise in vacancy appears most pronounced at the higher end of the rental market. In an effort to fill apartments and retain tenants, landlords have been offering concessions in the form of reduced rent, a month or more of free rent, and waivers on fees associated with leases.

While these measures give tenants a leg up in negotiations with landlords, a climbing vacancy rate could pose a threat to rent stabilization in the city. Under the state law enacting it, if the rate reaches 5%, the housing emergency would be over and rent stabilization would end.

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But Brenzel told WNYC’s Sean Carlson that New York politicians are intent on keeping the system intact. The vacancy rate on which it hinges is usually calculated every three years, but is being pushed back a year to 2022 so the survey does not conflict with the census. That means rent caps are safe until then. “It’s too soon to say that rent stabilization is in peril,” Brenzel said.

Click this link to hear her radio segment.