Manhattan landlords warehousing units in down market

Owners yanked 1,814 listings in February

(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

Apartment landlords in Manhattan are keeping more units vacant as the rental market slumps.

According to real-estate data analytics company UrbanDigs, landlords last month removed 1,814 apartment listings in the borough. The figure is more than three times the number of apartments that were warehoused in February 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported.

As many renters moved out of the city in the pandemic, Manhattan’s apartment vacancy rate went up, and the median rental price fell by more than 17 percent last year, according to a Douglas Elliman report compiled by appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

The peak month for delistings was August, when more than 5,500 apartments were taken off the market, according to UrbanDigs data.

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Discounts have lured back prospective renters, and in January, the number of new leases signed in Manhattan was the highest in 13 years, according to Miller Samuel.

Landlords might be warehousing units to avoid signing long-term leases at discounted rent, betting that the market will recover as more people get vaccinated, said John Walkup, co-founder of UrbanDigs.

Housing advocates are appalled by the practice as it exacerbates the city’s housing crisis.

“I think it is unconscionable that some landlords are keeping units off the market, and are just, you know, sitting with their arms crossed waiting for rents to go up,” Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, told the Journal.

Rosenthal last year proposed a law to fine landlords who warehouse apartments for more than three months. She said she plans to introduce an updated bill this year. [WSJ] — Akiko Matsuda