Affordable Housing

New program offers cash to NYC landlords to renovate vacant rent-regulated apartments

  • Eligible landlords can apply for up to $25,000 to fund renovations now
  • Unlocking Doors program expects to fund repairs at about 400 apartments
  • Owners must rent the renovated units to tenants who have CityFHEPS vouchers
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By Celia Young  |
December 19, 2023 - 4:15PM
Residential district in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, with the distant view on Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan.

The program could provide up to 400 formerly vacant apartments to CityFHEPS voucher holders.


A new, $10 million program will offer New York City landlords up to $25,000 to repair vacant, rent-regulated apartments and rent them to homeless New Yorkers.

Through the pilot program Unlocking Doors, the city plans to use $10 million to fund repairs for apartments that rent for no more than $1,400 per month. To qualify for the funds, a landlord must agree to rent their unit to a tenant who uses a CityFHEPS voucher—a NYC benefit that pays for part of a tenant’s rent.

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration intends to use the program to repair 400 units city-wide for these CityFHEPS voucher-holders, who often face discrimination and must navigate endless paperwork to find apartments.

“New York City’s lack of affordable housing remains one of the primary barriers to moving families and individuals experiencing homelessness into safe and stable long-term housing,” said Molly Wasow Park, the commissioner of the Department of Social Services, which will administer the program with the Housing Preservation and Development department. “This program will help us maximize the utility of the city’s existing stock of rent-stabilized apartments.”

A slower roll

Adams initially announced the program in April, with plans to launch it over the summer. But the rollout was delayed thanks to the city’s rulemaking process, according to a spokesperson for HPD.

HPD announced that applications were open for Unlocking Doors on Monday Dec. 18th, and the funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. To qualify, an apartment must have been vacant for the past two years and rents must be no more than $1,200 for a unit with up to one bedroom, $1,300 for an apartment with two bedrooms, and $1,400 for a unit with three or more bedrooms. 

Pre-approved landlords will be reimbursed for the renovation work after it’s completed and the apartment is rented to a CityFHEPS voucher holder, as long as the construction meets the CityFHEPS program’s standards. 

Focus on cheap apartments

The program would only impact the less than one percent of apartments that have asking rents below $1,500, according to Adams’ announcement. And an owner can only renovate up to three apartments per building. 

While limited to a handful of units, Unlocking Doors could help address landlord claims that rent-regulated housing is too expensive to repair and rent out, resulting in apartments sitting empty for years. (Estimates of the number of vacant, rent-stabilized apartments have varied from 2,500 to 90,000 in the past three years).

Landlord groups, however, have previously criticized Unlocking Doors for offering too few funds to make a substantial difference on owners’ budgets, The Real Deal reported.

Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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