City finally debuts pilot to rehab rent-stabilized units

Delays, landlord laments beset $10M “Unlocking Doors” initiative

City’s Pilot to Rehab Rent-Stabilized Units Finally Debuts
Mayor Eric Adams (Getty; Illustration by The Real Deal)

After months of delays, Mayor Eric Adams’ initiative to rehabilitate vacant, rent-stabilized units is finally set to launch.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Social Services on Monday announced the start of “Unlocking Doors,” an initiative that aims to get homeless New Yorkers out of shelters and rent-stabilized units into better shape. The Adams administration is investing up to $10 million into the program.

Owners of rent-stabilized buildings are eligible to apply to the fund with enough money to repair up to 400 affordable, rent-stabilized units across the city. Landlords can receive pre-approval of up to $25,000 for the repairs, which need to be completed within six months. Targeted units are those that have been unavailable to rent because of their condition for at least two years.

Landlords will need to rent out the applicable units with a two-year lease at the existing rent-stabilized rate. Incoming tenants will pay a maximum of 30 percent of their income through the CityFHEPS voucher program and the city will cover the balance. 

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First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright said in a statement the program would serve dual purposes: “adding much needed units to the city’s housing stock and serving New Yorkers in need.”

Landlords have expressed disbelief about whether or not the program would prove to be effective. Critics have said the funding isn’t sufficient to cover a gut renovation and doesn’t move the needle much compared to the 2019 rent law, which put a $15,000 cap on recoupable repair costs, ostensibly forcing them to hold rundown apartments off the market.

Owners have said the cost of repairs for long-vacant apartments coming back onto the market could range from $70,000 to $120,000. A study from the Independent Budget Office also revealed the potentially limited impact of the pilot program, recording slightly more than 13,000 units that have been vacant for at least two years.

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