The percentage of tenants who received rental relief from their landlords in Greenpoint and Williamsburg is potentially lower than the citywide average, according to Openigloo, a new startup that collects public information on city apartments.
Thirteen percent of renters in Greenpoint and 11% of renters in Williamsburg who submitted reviews between March of 2020 through 2021 reported that they had received “flexible payment options” from their landlords because of the pandemic, said Allia Mohamed, one of the founders of the app.
This is as opposed to a citywide average of 18%.
Openigloo’s data isn’t a random survey, making its data potentially prone to bias. For example, approximately half of the app’s users are between the age of 25 and 35, said Mohamed.
However, with a lack of hard numbers on the amount of renters suffering city and nationwide, the startup’s data provides a possible glimpse into the degree of relief provided by landlords for north Brooklyn tenants.
“There’s very little data on the scale and scope of rent concessions either in New York City or nationally,” Charles McNally, a press representative for the New York University Furman Center, which focuses on housing and urban policy, wrote in an email.
According to Mohamed, the three neighborhoods in the city that have reported receiving the highest percentages of “flexible payment plans”—which can include deferred rent, rent reductions or tenants using their security deposit to pay rent—are Battery Park, the Upper East Side and Ridgewood at 25%.
“You’re seeing, unfortunately, a bit of a trend here where the wealthy neighborhoods are actually the ones receiving these types of concessions for rent during the pandemic,” she said in an interview.
Mohamed declined to provide the exact number of reviews submitted in Greenpoint or Williamsburg, citing competition between Openigloo and other businesses who collect rental data. She said, though, that the percentages of those who received rental relief from their landlords are based on “thousands” of reviews for each neighborhood.
Openigloo’s data reflects the pandemic’s imbalanced effect on Manhattan and the other four boroughs, just like recent research performed by StreetEasy, which illustrated that rents decreased in neighborhoods with fewer cases of COVID-19 and increased in neighborhoods with comparatively more cases. The neighborhoods with lower COVID-19 cases tended to be in Manhattan.
Lucy Block, a researcher and policy analyst at the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, a housing policy nonprofit, says that, because independent researchers have no access to a centralized database on rental histories in New York State, these types of private surveys and datasets can be helpful.
Nonetheless, she expressed caution and advised anyone poring through this type of data to approach it with healthy skepticism, especially since those filling out reviews online can skew towards the digitally savvy, the younger and those of higher-income.
“You can use that data, and it can be interesting and tell you something,” she said. “But it’s helpful to take into account who is likely providing the data when you use it as an analysis.”
Despite the uncertainty, there’s no question that COVID-19 has upended the lives of both renters and landlords in north Brooklyn and beyond.
“What’s clear from unemployment filings and owner surveys,” says McNally of the Furman Center, “is that both tenants and small landlords are struggling.”