New York landlords are keeping apartments off the market due to rent control

Up until 2019, New York City landlords in rent-stabilized apartments were allowed to reset rents once a tenant had moved out — also known as vacancy decontrol. But in 2019, the city passed what is known as “The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act.” This law repealed vacancy decontrol, preventing landlords from raising rents once a renter moves out. The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act was meant to strengthen rent stabilization in New York City and protect renters.

But according to recent events, the law is doing the opposite of helping. Instead of putting units on the market once a renter moves out, landlords are keeping units vacant, leading to a housing shortage. Rents have skyrocketed as a result.

As Business Insider reports,

New York is neck deep in a housing shortage, but there are thousands of vacant apartments that could be available to the city’s renters — if landlords will let them move in.

Evan Rugen, the founder of real estate investment firm LVL Group NY, says a political fluke is allowing landlords to keep affordable units off the market. In a TikTok video that has more than 40,000 views, Rugen says a 2019 act that was created to protect affordable rent for New Yorkers has done the exact opposite.


The Community Housing Improvement Program, an association of nearly 4,000 owners and managers of more than 400,000 rent-stabilized properties across New York City, estimates that out of the more than 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in NYC, 20,000 units remain vacant as costs prevent landlords from listing them.

While it may seem more beneficial for landlords to rent out these units at a lower cost than to forgo any income at all, Rugen says the hesitancy is based on tenant longevity. Simply put, if a tenant has a good deal on rent, they’re less likely to move elsewhere and the landlord may have to wait years to collect a higher rent. 

“One of the biggest questions is, $100 better than $0?,” Rugen said. “Well, no, because a rent stabilized tenant is very difficult to get out.”

Though the law was created to better protect tenants, it could inadvertently be making their lives more difficult. New York City’s pool of new housing hasn’t kept up with population growth and that means rental competition has become stiff. 

According to the real-estate management company Douglas Elliman, bidding wars accounted for about one in five lease signings in Manhattan in May. In Brooklyn, it was one in four new signings. Median rents in these boroughs climbed by 25% and 18% from the same period in 2021. 

Without additional inventory, the Big Apple’s housing shortage is likely to worsen — and that means rental prices will continue to climb. 

It is quite unfortunate that New York City has failed to learn from its own history about the perils of rent control — especially strict rent control policy. But on top of what is already happening in St. Paul — permits going down and landlords raising prices for utilities — NYC should be a lesson to St. Paul lawmakers about what more is to come if the City’s strict rent control policy is not reversed.