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NYC Rent Collection Rates Dropping, Vacancy Rising As Relief Seems Far Away


With no immediate prospect of aid from the federal government and no plan from City Hall to stop the economic bleeding, indicators show New York's economic recovery from the nadir of the coronavirus lockdown is stuck at the starting gates.

Residential vacancy rates in New York City have soared, apartment rent collections are still down, and nearly 90% of restaurants cannot pay full rent, reports released over the last few days show. 

New York City’s residential vacancy rate is nearly 12.6%, while 19% of renters haven't paid September rent, according to a Community Housing Improvement Program survey of 80,000 New York City apartments, most of which are rent-stabilized. A survey of 450 restaurants the NYC Hospitality Alliance released Monday found nearly 9 out of 10 could not pay full rent in August.

Trade groups are reiterating calls for the government to step in and stop the economic hemorrhaging with renewed urgency. NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie called on state and local leaders to provide rent relief, extend outdoor dining and provide a plan for indoor dining. 

“The hospitality industry is essential to New York’s economic and social fabric,” he said. 

He also called for Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, which would include a $120B industry bailout and an extension of Paycheck Protection Program loans. 

In a pivot from prior months, CHIP Executive Director Jay Martin said the trade group has stopped expecting the federal government to step in, and that the industry is now looking toward local policymakers for help. 

“City and State leaders must take steps to stop the bleeding and stabilize the affordable housing ecosystem for both tenants and their housing providers,” he said in a statement. 

CHIP pitched three suggestions: an extension of the coronavirus rent relief voucher program, implementation of rent forgiveness and a reinstatement of preferential rents for tenants of rent-stabilized units. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice included New York City as one of three cities on its list of “anarchist jurisdictions,” saying it has allowed “violence and destruction of property to persist and [has] refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities," NBC New York reported Monday. 

With the designation, New York City could lose federal grants that make up a chunk of its already decimated budget. City and state officials, as well as business and real estate leaders, afraid the city could fall into an economic collapse not seen since the 1970s, have been lobbying the federal government to infuse money into New York City’s economy. 

“I understand the politics, but when you try to manipulate and distort government agencies to play politics, which is what the Trump administration has done from day one … this is more of the same," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters, according to NBC. “The president can’t supersede the law and say, 'I’m going to make those funds basically discretionary funds,' which is what he would have to do.”

At the beginning of the crisis, experts and community groups leaders feared an exodus from the city as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic turmoil. Business leaders last week penned a letter asking Mayor Bill de Blasio to release a plan to guide New York out of the crisis. This, along with federal funding, are the two things experts say will move New York forward.