New York’s mom-and-pop property owners are in a state of crisis. Stuck without steady streams of income for months on end, forced to pay extortionate property taxes and boxed in by regulations, many may sell to larger commercial landlords absent some form of relief.
“We’re being eaten alive,” said Lincoln Eccles, a small property owner and second-generation Jamaican immigrant in Crown Heights.
Roughly a quarter of New York renters have not paid their landlords in the past four months, and nearly two-thirds of retail ground-floor tenants in apartment buildings did not pay May rent. In response, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently proposed the city “cancel rent” and suspend mortgage payments. Yet this ignores the pain of small property owners, many of whom are working- and middle-class people of color who care for what remains of New York City’s naturally affordable housing.
The number of small property owners in New York City is large, if a little unclear. By one estimate, small landlords owning up to five properties account for 28% of the city’s housing stock, rising to half once you include medium-sized owners with up to 20 properties. This data, sourced from pro-tenant groups, likely undercounts the smallest owners, who are less likely to register with the city. The Rent Stabilization Association says that 70% of its landlord members own just one or two buildings and account for two-thirds of the city’s rent-regulated units.
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