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October 21, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

Clearing Up the Landlord Propaganda

A letter written by Dan Jacoby:

Dear Ms. Fung:

The “study” on which you reported in the Crain’s article [“Study: Owners of rent-stabilized buildings regular folks, Oct. 20, 2009] is a lesson in falsehoods. The groups who commissioned the study are groups of landlords, so naturally the study reflects what they want to have said.

In this case, the “study” talks about “owners” but not “properties.” Why is there an enormous difference Because one “owner” can own many, many “properties” (just look up Tishman-Speyer, for example). In addition, a “family business” is whatever the owner decides it is; many so-called “family businesses” are in fact privately-owned but very large corporations.

If the study were legitimate, it would show how many rent-stabilized properties have absentee landlords. The one figure, that “31% [of owners] actually live in the buildings they own,” fails to take into account landlords who own more than one building — they can’t live in all their buildings. How many buildings rent-stabilized buildings have their owners living in them? Of course the study doesn’t say, but it’s a long-odds bet that the number is miniscule.

Finally, the “study” claims that, “Roughly 60% of owners said revenues exceeded operating costs.” The key word is “said” — owners say one thing, but that doesn’t make it the truth. The fact is that between maintenance, heat, water, property taxes and other “operating costs,” the typical apartment costs less than $700/mo., while the typical rent is significantly higher, so 40% of the owners may have “said” that they don’t make money, but that is clearly not an accurate statement.

Seriously, if you’re going to report propaganda as straight news you should quit your job and stop pretending to be a journalist. You blew this one; now let’s see if you can make up for it.

Dan Jacoby

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