Residents and politicians rallied outside 279 E. 44th Street on Sunday afternoon to hail a new report on illegal hotels— residential buildings that have been converted into high-priced hotels or corporate apartments.
The report, released by Housing Conservation Coordinators, detailed more than 200 residential buildings and SROs, including 279 E. 44th, that have been flipped into “short-term rentals” of 30 days or more. Housing advocates have decried the practice as a new trend among strategy-minded landlords that displaces New Yorkers and depletes affordable housing.
One of the New Yorkers at risk of displacement is Albert Wilking, whose fight with his landlord was detailed in the Voice last year.
Wilking has already spent three grand fighting eviction and believes his landlord wants to get him out to convert the apartment into another hotel room. Much of the building has already been flipped; Studios that may have rented for $1,800 a month to long-term tenants are now bringing $4,250 a month as “corporate housing” or short-term rentals for out-of-towners. (One bedrooms there are now advertised at $5,250 for a month, two bedrooms start at $5,850.) “There are strangers in the building constantly and it didn’t used to be that way,” he says.
At the Sunday rally, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer pushed for legislation to reign in landlords like Wilking’s, saying “When you’re illegally taking away those apartments and converting them to fly-by-night hotels and not even providing any great services, then that’s clearly an issue for this city.”
Already, the landlords in question are preparing for battle. Earlier this year, the Corporate Housing Providers Association, in its industry newsletter, warned its members about “increased governmental scrutiny” in the city and promised to fight any legislation against illegal hotels:
“More than a dozen member companies gathered their resources and contacts to coordinate a response to the NYC proposed legislation. The group retained an elite team of professionals, including two law firms, a lobbyist, a PR company and a consulting firm who provided an economic impact study for our industry. The team has had many productive meetings with elected officials.”