VANISHING APARTMENTS

From Inwood to the Financial District, New Yorkers are having a tough time finding affordable apartments in the city. We have the details on Manhattan’s extreme housing shortage.

Aired on July 05, 2018 and August 12, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> A POWERFUL NEW SERIES FROM THE 'NEW YORK TIMES,' INVESTIGATES THE CAUSES BEHIND THE HOUSING CRISIS THAT ENGULFS THE CITY AND RESULTED IN INCREASED EVICTIONS AND A GROWING RATE OF HOMELESSNESS.

AS RENTS CONTINUE TO RISE, JOURNALISTS AT THE PAPER LOOKED INTO THE PRACTICES OF LANDLORDS THAT RAISED RENTS HIGHER AND HIGHER.

AND THEY ALSO EXPLORED HOW A SYSTEM OF REGULATIONS ONCE DESIGNED TO PROTECT RESIDENTS ARE NOW BEING USED TO EVICT TENANTS FROM THEIR AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS.

THE REPORTING WAS SPEARHEADED BY KIM BARKER.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME HERE.

FIRST, KIM, TELL ME, HOW DID YOU CREATE THIS SERIES?

THIS IS THE TOPIC ON EVERYONE'S TONGUES IN NEW YORK.

I THINK THAT'S THE REASON WE STARTED LOOKING INTO IT.

AND THE WHOLE GOAL AND THE CHALLENGE WAS THAT A LOT OF THE INFORMATION WE WERE LOOKING TO GET AT IS CONSIDERED TO BE CONFIDENTIAL BY THE STATE AGENCY THAT REGULATES REGULATED HOUSING.

SO WE HAD TO FIGURE OUT DIFFERENT WAYS TO GET AT IT.

WE DIDN'T WANT TO JUST DO ANECDOTAL STORIES.

SO WE WANTED WHATEVER WE DID TO BE BACKED UP WITH DATA.

AND YEAH, SO WE CAME UP WITH, YOU KNOW, WE LOOKED AT THE DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS AND CAME UP WITH DATABASES FROM THAT.

WE HAD SOMEBODY SCRAPE THE TAX BILLS TO BE ABLE TO LOOK AT THE NUMBER OF RENT STABILIZED UNITS HOW THAT HAD GONE DOWN.

WE REPORTED THAT OUT TO MAKE SURE IT WAS ACCURATE AND WE CAME UP WITH THIS IDEA THAT TACTICS THAT MEGALANDLORDS USE TO PUSH OUT TENANTS FROM REGULATED HOUSING AND WHAT TENANTS WERE DOING WERE NO MATCH FOR THAT IF THE LISTENED LORD WAS ORGANIZED AND LARGE.

ONE OF THE THINGS I THOUGHT WAS INTERESTING WAS THAT TO GET THE TESTIMONIALS ABOUT TACTICS LANDLORDS WERE USING YOU HAD TO TALK TO TENANTS.

BUT A LOT OF THEM WERE APPREHENSIVE TO OPEN UP.

YEAH, OF COURSE.

THINK ABOUT BEING ASKED TO TALK ABOUT YOUR LANDLORD IN PUBLIC, WITH YOUR NAME, AND YOU'RE ALREADY A LITTLE BIT NERVOUS ABOUT WHAT YOUR LANDLORD IS DOING, AND LIKE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR LANDLORD.

YEAH, IT CAN BE A VERY NERVE RACKING THING.

ONE OF THE TENANTS I WROTE ABOUT WHO HAD BEEN PUSHED OUT AND WAS LIVING IN RURAL PENNSYLVANIA WAS STILL VERY NERVOUS TO TALK ABOUT HER LANDLORD.

SHE STILL HAD --

EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS NO LONGER IN THE BUILDING?

SHE STILL HAD NIGHTMARES AND SHE WAS CONVINCED THEY WERE GOING TO COME AFTER HER.

SHE WAS OLDER.

IT WAS ONLY THROUGH HER NIECE THAT CONVINCED HER IT WAS A GOOD THING TO TALK TO US.

TALK ABOUT TACTICS.

WHAT DID YOU FIND IN YOUR REPORTING?

BASICALLY IT STARTS OUT WITH A NEW PERSON BUYS A BUILDING, A NEW COMPANY BUYS A BUILDING.

IF IT'S GOT A LOT OF RENT-STABILIZED UNITS IN IT OR RENT-CONTROLLED UNITS IN IT, THE GOAL IS TO TRY TO GET THE RENTS HIGHER FOR THOSE UNITS.

FIRST THING YOU DO IF YOU'RE A NEW OWNER, YOU GO THROUGH THE BUILDING AND TRY TO GET FOLKS TO TAKE A BUYOUT.

IT'S A CHUNK OF MONEY THAT MEANS THAT YOU WILL LEAVE IN EXCHANGE FOR THAT MONEY.

IF THAT DOESN'T WORK, YOU TRY OTHER TACTICS.

YOU RESEARCH THEM.

YOU MAYBE FILE A LAWSUIT AGAINST THEM IN HOUSING COURT SAYING THEY'RE NOT, YOU KNOW, MEETING THE STANDARDS OF THE LEASE, THEY MIGHT HAVE A PRIMARY -- THEY HAVE A PRIMARY RESIDENCE ELSEWHERE.

YOU SAY THEY'RE NOT PAYING THEIR RENT ON TIME.

THESE LAWSUITS AND THESE BUYOUTS, AS WELL AS OTHER THINGS CAN ADD UP TO PEOPLE JUST DECIDING IT'S A BETTER IDEA TO LEAVE.

AND THEN ONCE YOU CLEAR AN APARTMENT YOU START DOING CONSTRUCTION IN THAT APARTMENT.

THOSE -- THAT CONSTRUCTION IS THEN USED TO BE ABLE TO INCREASE THE RENT EVEN HIGHER.

IT ALSO SERVES AS A WAY TO, YOU KNOW, HARASS OTHER TENANTS WHO LIVE IN THE BUILDING.

I THINK ANYBODY UNDERSTANDS THAT IF YOU'RE LIVING IN A BUILDING AND THERE'S CONSTANTLY CONSTRUCTION GOING ON, CONSTANTLY DUST GOING ON, THERE'S NOT ENOUGH PROTECTIONS, IT MAKES YOU LESS LIKELY TO WANT TO LIVE THERE, IT MAKES YOU START FEELING LIKE THIS IS JUST -- THIS IS NOT WORTH IT.

THAT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE WHAT YOU WERE JUST DESCRIBING, WHICH I'M SURE IS INCREDIBLY STRESSFUL ENOUGH, BUT IT SORT OF FITS WITH THE OTHER HORROR STORIES WE'VE HEARD, WHERE THEY CUT OFF HEAT OR HOT WATER, IS THAT A FAIR ASSESSMENT TO MAKE?

YOU CAN'T SAY -- OBVIOUSLY NOT ALL LANDLORDS ARE BAD.

AND WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A CLASS OF LANDLORDS, AND THESE ARE LANDLORDS, SORT OF WE CALL THEM MEGALANDLORDS, FOLKS WHO -- COMPANIES WHO OWN A LOT OF BUILDINGS.

THE WHOLE GOAL WITH THOSE BUILDINGS IS TO DRIVE UP THE RENTS AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE.

IN THAT CASE YOU STOP LOOKING AT YOUR TENANTS AS ACTUAL, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE, IT'S MORE LIKE YOU'RE LOOKING AT NUMBERS.

RIGHT, HOW DO I GET THE NUMBER UP AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE.

BUT YEAH, WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, EITHER PROACTIVE, CUTTING THE HEAT OFF, NOT HAVING ENOUGH HOT WATER DURING THE WINTER MONTHS, OR IT'S JUST NEGLECT, IT'S LIKE NOT DOING ENOUGH THINGS JUST NOT BEING RESPONSIVE TO TENANTS' CONCERNS, ALL THESE THINGS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER, CAN ADD UP TO BEING VERY FRUSTRATING EXPERIENCE.

AND OBVIOUSLY THE LANDLORD THAT MOST EVERYBODY KNOWS, WHO IS KNOWN FOR THIS SORT OF THING IS STEVE CROWEMAN AND HIS PARTICULAR COMPANY.

HE IS THE ONE PERSON WHO'S BEEN HELD UP, I BELIEVE THE FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL CALLED HIM THE BERNIE MADOFF OF LANDLORDS.

HE WAS CRIMINALLY CHARGED IN RELATION TO THE MORTGAGES HE TOOK OUT ON THESE PROPERTIES.

ONE FINAL THOUGHT, OR QUESTION I SHOULD SAY, IS ABOUT WHEN SOME OF THESE APARTMENTS ARE BROUGHT UP TO MARKET RATE, YOU COULD HAVE PEOPLE WHO JUST BUY THEM OR RENT THEM AS AN INVESTMENT, AND DON'T MOVE IN THEM.

HERE'S THE WAY IT WORKS, RIGHT?

THESE BUILDINGS, THESE MULTIFAMILY BUILDINGS WITH A LOT OF RENT-STABILIZED UNITS IN THEM, THEY'RE ADVERTISED AS ADDING A LOT OF VALUE.

ADDING VALUE MEANS YOU'RE PUSHING OUT THE STABILIZED TENANTS AND INCREASING THE RENT TO THE FREE MARKET.

THAT IS HOW YOU ADD VALUE.

THAT IS HOW YOU GET MORE MONEY.

THE WHOLE GOAL WHEN YOU GET A BUILDING LIKE THIS IS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR PROFIT.

ANYBODY WHO UNDERSTANDS PROFIT AND LOSS, UNDERSTANDS THAT.

OF COURSE YOU WANT TO GET AS MUCH MONEY AS YOU CAN FOR THE RENTS FOR A BUILDING.

WHAT THAT DOESN'T REALLY ACCOUNT FOR IS THE PEOPLE WHO WERE LIVING THERE BEFORE AND WHERE THEY ACTUALLY GO.

YOU'VE GOT PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING PUSHED OUT, THEY'RE MOVING TO LIKE FAR FLUNG AREAS OF THE BRONX, THEY'RE EVEN MOVING TO, YOU KNOW, PLACES LIKE PENNSYLVANIA.

THEY'RE LEAVING THE CITY ALL TOGETHER.

IT'S LIKE WHAT WE WERE TALKING BEFOREHAND, PEOPLE JUST GETTING PRICED OUT, NOT BEING ABLE TO AFFORD TO LIVE IN THE CITY.

AND I THINK THAT WE -- THAT MIGHT BE THE CITY WE WANT, BUT IT'S SOMETHING WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES, IF THAT IS INDEED THE CITY WE WANT, THAT PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY DO JOBS, THAT KEEP THE CITY GOING, IF THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO LIVE HERE, WHAT SORT OF CITY DO WE HAVE?

THAT IS AN EXCELLENT QUESTION AND A GREAT POINT TO END THIS ON.

THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS SERIES.

IT'S DEFINITELY SOMETHING WE'RE ALL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT.

DO I STAY, DO I GO, DO I CONTINUE FIGHTING, DO I NOT?

WHAT DO YOU DO LIVING IN NEW YORK?

JUST MAKING THE RENT CAN BE INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

RIGHT, IT CAN BE.

WELL, THANK YOU AGAIN.

THANKS VERY MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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