Cheap Rent in NYC: World of Rent Regulated Apartments

NYC Apartments

Have you heard about Ms. Patricia who lived in a 2 bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village for $28 a month? Or 100 year-old Ms. Justa who lives in an apartment in Upper East Side for $150?

Both of these areas are HIGHLY coveted real estate in New York City. The Greenwich Village apartment could go for $5,000~$7,000 a month, and the Upper East Side apartment could go for $3,000 a month. So how is it that these ladies managed to pay so little to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world?

The answer, my friends, is the ubiquitous – and yet little known – world of Rent Regulated Apartments. And you might be surprised to know that half of apartments in NYC are Rent Stabilized!

My own apartment in Queens is Rent Stabilized, and my rent has stayed fairly consistent for the past 3 years. When I moved in, spring of 2015, I signed a 2 year lease for $1,670 for a 2 bedroom apartment. Last year, I signed the lease again for $1,690.

This year, I’ll be signing the lease again, and I anticipate it’ll probably be something around $1,700 to $1,710. While it’s not an amount I’m comfortable with paying on my own, it is extremely under-market in the area where my friends have been unsuccessful in finding studios under $1,600.

I recently wrote about how I live on $1,500 a month in NYC. This would definitely not be possible if I weren’t living in a Rent Subsidized 2 bedroom apartment that I share with a roommate.

Rent Regulation Facts and Numbers

Few different phrases gets thrown around when talking about “those apartments where rent never seems to go up and people live there for decades for fraction of the cost.” Let’s try to define and quantify some of the phrases and numbers!

Rent Controlled vs Rent Stabilized vs Rent Regulated

  • Rent Controlled” and “Rent Stabilized” apartments both involve rent regulation, but abide by different sets of regulations.
  • “Rent Regulated” encompasses both “Rent Controlled” and “Rent Stabilized” units.
  • NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) is an agency that regulates Rent Regulated apartments.
  • There are about 22,000 Rent Controlled apartments in NYC.
  • There are about 966,000 Rent Stabilized apartments in NYC.
  • Together, Rent Stabilized and Rent Controlled apartments make up almost half of all inhabited apartments in NYC.

What’s the Difference?

Let’s see what NYC Rent Guidelines Board has to say about Rent Control vs Rent Stabilization.

Rent Control

  • Residential buildings built before February 1947 in municipalities that hadn’t declared end to the postwar rental housing emergency.
  • Tenant must have been living in that apartment since before July 1, 1971.
  • When the unit is vacated, it becomes rent stabilized or removed from regulation (if building has less than 6 units).

Rent Stabilization

  • Generally apartments in buildings with 6 or more units built between February 1, 1947 and January 1, 1974.
  • Tenants in buildings of 6+ units built before February 1, 1947 and who moved in after June 30, 1971 are also covered.
  • Buildings with 3+ apartments constructed or extensively renovated since 1974 with special tax benefits.

Basically, if you’re an old person (or kin to an old person) who have been living in a building built before February 1947, then your unit is probably Rent Controlled. If you’re like the rest of us, who have moved into the city recently or gotten an apartment recently and your apartment is Rent Regulated, your apartment is probably Rent Stabilized.

Features of Rent Stabilized Apartments

There’s a simple way to tell if a building contains at least one Rent Stabilized Unit. However, note that there is no telling if YOUR specific unit is Rent Stabilized until you request a rent history request.

Your building might contain at least one Rent Stabilized Unit if….

  • It contains 6 or more units
  • Was built before 1974
  • Is not a co-op or a condo

For a specific apartment to be Rent Stabilized…

  • Have rent of less than $2,000 if the tenant moved in between 1993 and June 23, 2011
  • Have rent of less than $2,500 if the tenant moved in between June 24, 2011 and June 14, 2015
  • Have rent of less than $2,700 if the tenant moved in since June 15, 2015
  • Have rent of less than $2,733.75 if the tenant moved in after December 31, 2017
  • Have rent of less than $2,774.76 if the tenant moved in after December 31, 2018

There are some other semantics that you might want to review, but basically, if it were to be Rent Stabilized, it’s probably an old apartment with 6 or more units.

Is My Apartment Rent Stabilized?

Now that you know that roughly half of all apartments in the city are Rent Stabilized, are you interested in taking a look to see if yours might be one of them? Or perhaps you’re looking for a new place and want to see if the one you’re viewing is Rent Stabilized?

Here are a few simple ways to check if your apartment is Rent Regulated:

More importantly, if you find that your apartment IS Rent Stabilized, but your landlord never told you and over-charged you rent, you could be reimbursed back rent!

Is It Worth It?

If you have the money and want to try out the fancy high rises with the big windows, gyms, pools, laundry, and a doorman, Rent Subsidized apartments are not for you. You will not find those subsidized, unless you are lucky enough to snag an Rent Regulated unit in one of the Affordable Housing Lottery offered by the city to provide lowered rent in newly erected high rises.

But if you are ok with an older unit to spend the money elsewhere or to put into your savings, finding an apartment that’s Rent Regulated might be a good option.

As they say, “different strokes for different folks!” Though despite my ESOL (English as a Second Language) upbringing, I’m starting to wonder if that’s not just a sex euphemism. It is, right…?


  1. Abigail

    My great aunt has a rent controlled apartment in New York.She had to take long trips to Florida to help an ailing brother, and the landlord hired a PI to try to prove that she was no longer living there so that they could kick her out and jack up her rent. Given how long she’s been living in that apartment — I’d say 50 years, easily — I can’t really fault him for trying. She must be paying a relative pittance for that place!

    And yes, “different strokes for different folks” always struck me as a tad naughty.

    1. Post

      Ahhh yeah. I’d imagine she pays pretty good rent. And I can understand arguments from both sides! I bet the landlord is just dying to have her out to replace her with someone paying $3,000!! Yikes. I hope she’ll get to keep it though. I felt like the story about the 100 year old lady being threatened with being kicked out was rather sad. Let her live in peace! She’s 100 for god’s sake!!

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  3. Tread Lightly, Retire Early

    Hmmm, okay, I think I need to look into this some more as someone who works in affordable housing. I didn’t realize that rent control / rent stabilization were such different things. We don’t have either in Washington, but now I want to dig deeper into the different rules.

    1. Post

      Me neither! The things you learn researching fro blog posts! Haha. Seems like these were established post-war because the housing prices were skyrocketing, and so it’s more legacy than anything… But helps keep at least half of the units livable in terms of rent!! I’d HATE to be in a 6 unit where 3 are rent regulated and 3 not… And be on the not side. Hah.

  4. Pingback: Going from Paycheck to Paycheck to Saving $45k/yr in 4 Years in NYC – Walking to FIRE

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