Contact Us

Adams Offers $10M To Rehab Vacant Rent-Stabilized Units, Is Slammed By Landlord Groups

New York City Mayor Eric Adams drinks tea.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is offering grants to owners of rent-stabilized buildings to fix up their vacant apartments and house people experiencing homelessness.

Dubbed Unlocking Doors, the $10M pilot program will provide as much as $25K for needed repairs at 400 rent-stabilized homes that are vacant and unavailable for rent, the city announced this week.

The funding would only be available to landlords who agree for the rehabilitated apartments to go to tenants using City Fighting Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement vouchers.

The idea, according to a release announcing the program, is to incentivize owners with vacant apartments in need of repairs to make them and bridge a critical gap fueling the city's housing crisis. There were some 61,000 rent-stabilized homes vacant in 2021, according to a state housing agency memo reported by The City.

To get access to the program, property owners need to show the unit is what has been termed “chronically vacant” and has been registered with the state. The rent will not be able to exceed certain thresholds.

“‘Unlocking Doors’ demonstrates this administration’s commitment to housing New Yorkers experiencing homelessness,” Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz said in a statement. “This program improves the quality of our housing stock, while providing incentives to property owners to make vacant units available for the lowest-income New Yorkers. In doing this work, we continue to meet goals of this administration’s housing and homelessness blueprint.”

Landlords say the cost of renovating apartments, with higher interest rates and material prices, has become prohibitive. The rent reform laws of 2019 that cap the expenses that can be passed on to tenants in stabilized buildings has left many opting to keep units off the market rather than fixing them up and renting them out.

The practice, often referred to as warehousing, has raised the ire of tenant advocates, who accuse landlords of holding the state ransom in the middle of a housing crisis. The Unlocking Doors program is aimed at this issue, but landlords said after the announcement it doesn't amount to a solution.

Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, and Joseph Strasburg, the president of the Rent Stabilization Association, said in a joint statement that the program doesn’t provide enough money to cover the costs of rehabbing one of these units into modern living standards.

"It is completely unrealistic to think that $25,000 is anywhere close to enough to renovate a rent-stabilized apartment and bring it into compliance with Local Law 66 of 2019 and Local Law 97 of 2019,” the joint statement said. “The cost for permits to do this work is between $7,000 and $10,000, before you even start the process of lead-remediation or upgrading the electrical wiring.”

They said their organizations, which represent the majority of rent-stabilized apartment building owners in New York City, weren't consulted for the program.