Bill de Blasio, Amazing Landlord, Normal Homeowner


102113blaz2Because they have found nothing juicier and more sordid to dig up, The New York Post and Crain’s New York are hedging all their bets that voters would find it scandalous that Bill de Blasio takes deductions on his rental income and refinanced his mortgage.

This is pretty boring stuff. In essence, he’s like most other homeowners.

Let’s start with the rental property. First Crain’s made a mountain out of the fact that he didn’t tell the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board about the rental income on their two-family Park Slope home (pictured, right), once owned by Chirlane’s mom, which they purchased in 2004. The reason his team didn’t deem it necessary to report? Because on paper it’s a loss. In 2011, his $47,500 in rental income was offset by the $62,200 in deductions that the majority of homeowners take, namely a depreciation expense and the interest on his loan. A depreciation expense, I learned after consulting with my own accountant, Steven Zelin, is something that owners of residential rental property can claim over 27 and a half years, and most people do it. You’ll be taxed on your total depreciation deduction if you ever sell your property, but in the short term it helps offset your rental income, which most people want to do.

So basically de Blasio is like every other property owner in this regard, except he’s no ordinary landlord. He’s actually an excellent landlord, one of his tenants told the Crain’s reporter. “They are just the most wonderful people,” said his first-floor tenant, Mr. Wilmer. “Anything that’s a problem, they take care of it immediately.” The New York Times just published a follow up story today, to further reinforce how good he is to his tenants.

Then The Post tries to “smear” his name by reporting that last month, he took out another mortgage on the house he lives in. Perhaps because he needs money to pay for major expenses in his life, like a daughter in her second year of college and a mayoral campaign to win?

Meanwhile, last week, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of the Lhota-supporting, conservative New York Progress and Protection PAC, and is now allowing wealthy donors to contribute any amount they want to a campaign.  Of course, this could play into a Democrat’s hands too—it’s not like there is a shortage of wealthy liberals. But leveraging one Brooklyn home, even multiple times, pales in comparison to the sums that PACs can come up with.

The fact that de Blasio is “in debt up to his eyeballs,” as the Post exaggerated, because he pulls out equity from his house is not an indictment of his money-management skills. It’s further proof that he is just another ordinary member of the middle class, who uses all of his legal, tax-deductible means to raise a family.

To be fair, it’s got to be hard work for the right-wing and conservative press to find dirt on the city’s most exciting, progressive mayoral candidate in our own lifetimes. Chin up, guys—you’ve got 8 more days to magically overcome de Blasio’s 46-point lead. 

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