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The Loophole in New York's Rent Regulations and Its Impact on Ridgewood, Queens

America Finance
New York's Rent Regulations and Its ImpactPhoto byAmerica Finance

Ridgewood, Queens, a trendy neighborhood north of Bushwick, has witnessed a significant decline in the number of registered rent-stabilized apartments in recent years.

While the citywide decline in registered rent-stabilized units is roughly 10%, Ridgewood's decline was over 65% in just two years. According to an analysis by THE CITY, one possible explanation for this decline is a loophole in New York's rent regulations that allows landlords to remove entire buildings from regulation by using the "substantial rehabilitation" exception.

This exception allows landlords to claim that their buildings were dilapidated and then undertake extensive reconstruction to increase rents significantly. The transformation of Ridgewood has also put upward pressure on rents, with the median sale price for residential real estate almost tripling in the last decade, going from $390,000 in 2012 to $1.09 million in 2022.

The impact of this trend on tenants has been severe, with long-time residents finding it increasingly difficult to afford the rising rents. Letitia Ayala, a resident of Ridgewood for over three decades, has been able to stay in her apartment due to rent stabilization.

However, many new neighbors have come and gone, paying vastly more than her roughly $700-a-month rent. While Ayala has been able to keep her apartment through her son's lease, other buildings are registering zero rent-stabilized units, and the trend is putting pressure on the availability of affordable housing in the neighborhood.

Tenant advocates say that many landlords are taking advantage of the pandemic's impact on the neighborhood to remove buildings from rent regulation. Newcomers have moved in, unaware of their building's rent-stabilized status. The Ridgewood Tenants Union has been vocal in advocating for tenants' rights, and organizers have pointed to the many buildings undergoing extensive renovations as signs that landlords may be using the "substantial rehabilitation" exception to deregulate their buildings.

The loophole in New York's rent regulations is putting the availability of affordable housing in Ridgewood, Queens, at risk. The city must act quickly to close this loophole and protect tenants' rights. Furthermore, it is essential to find ways to increase the availability of affordable housing in the neighborhood while preserving its unique character and history.

This can be achieved through a combination of measures, including rent control and incentives for landlords to keep buildings rent-stabilized, among others. Ultimately, the goal should be to ensure that all residents of Ridgewood have access to safe, affordable, and stable housing.

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