Sales of New York City apartment buildings tumbled to near-decade lows last year, after new rent rules scared investors away from properties with regulated units.

By every measure, it was a terrible 2019 for those in the business of owning and selling multifamily properties. The dollar value of purchases across all boroughs fell 40% from the prior year to $6.91 billion, the lowest total since 2011, according to a report by brokerage Ariel Property Advisors. There were 290 multifamily deals -- a 36% decline, and the first year with fewer than 300 transactions in records dating to 2010.

Apartments fell out of favor for investors last year as they digested New York's new rent law, which governs about 1 million apartments in the city. The overhaul took direct aim at landlords' income by making it almost impossible to raise rents, remove units from state regulation or even recoup the costs of capital improvements. In doing so, it upended a basic tenet of apartment investing: that spending on renovations could bring higher returns.

Kind of funny -- not that we're fans of rent regulation, but the rules just basically eliminate the ability of landlords and developers to boot people off of rent regulation, something you wouldn't expect to be able to do under rent regulation in the first place. This is another instance of the kind of battle between the "winners" and "left-behinds" we are seeing more and more of in our economy and polity.

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