By Hadassa Kalatizadeh
Landlords, activists and trade groups are banding together to ask NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to freeze property taxes amid the extensive shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus. Civil rights activist Hazel Dukes, who previously served as the national president of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People has joined in the effort, saying that minority landlords are particularly susceptible. “Temporary fixes like mortgage deferrals are not enough,” Dukes, 88, said in a statement. “Mayor de Blasio has to provide the meaningful lifeline of a property-tax freeze to prevent the American dream of homeownership from becoming a nightmare.”
The pandemic has led to the shutdown of all nonessential business, which has led to a spike in unemployment. The shuttered businesses have not been paying employees and like a chain reaction these factors have led to nonpayment of rents, hurting the real estate industry. As reported by Crain’s NY, landlords and property owners have it particularly rough during this pandemic and its ensuing shutdown, as rent-collection rates have dropped abysmally. Landlords now maintain that since they have not been paid, they therefore do not have the means to pay their mortgages, tax bills or upkeep on their properties.
Data from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has revealed that roughly forty-five percent of small businesses missed all or a portion of their rent payments over the last two months. In the month of May, Vornado Realty Trust publicized that it received rent from only 20 percent of its retail tenants.
Property taxes are up since 2014 when Mayor de Blasio took office, as per data from the NYC Department of Finance, and experts predict they could be further on the rise with the city looking for ways to increase its revenue. “Our community of homeowners is not positioned to absorb new costs in the form of increased taxes,” said Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums. The group of property owners is asking to be allowed to pay their taxes with monthly payment plans to avoid bankruptcy, and for interest penalties to be lowered from the current 18 percent down to 3 percent.
Hotel owners have also joined landlords in the effort to beseech the Mayor. The hospitality industry understandably is experiencing low occupancy levels due to the shutdown and halt in tourism. Hotels have been used during this pandemic as shelter for health care workers, Covid-19 patients and the homeless. “It’s essential and only fair that the city does everything it can to keep hotels in business,” Vijay Dandapani, president and CEO of the Hotel Association of New York City, said in a statement. “We need immediate property-tax relief.”
The Mayor’s office has yet to comment. Earlier this month, however, the city’s Department of Management and Budget told Crain’s that a relief in property-tax would be unlikely, and it projected $180 million in delinquent payments this summer.