As rents in Brooklyn slip but inventory continues to mount, landlords are locked in a fight to fill their apartments.
After lavishing their buildings with outdoor cinemas, high-end markets and spa-caliber pools, landlords have decided to offer hefty freebies, like several months of rent and other concessions.
Particularly pitched, brokers say, is the battle playing out along the Flatbush Avenue corridor in Downtown Brooklyn, where rental complexes have quickly sprung up.
The largest new towers, they add, face the biggest leasing challenges. They include the Ashland at 250 Ashland Place, with 586 units; 300 Ashland, with 379 units; and the latest arrival, Hub, at 333 Schermerhorn Street, a 600-unit, 610-foot colossus whose rental office opened in January.
“The market seems oversaturated, but I like to use the word oversupplied with my clients so as to not create a panic,” said Marie Bromberg, a Corcoran Group agent. Among the benefits to consumers, she added, is that commission fees, usually paid by renters, are being covered by landlords.
If an abundant supply is undercutting the market, Hub, developed by Steiner NYC and designed by Dattner Architects, may be opening at a tough time, even as it cuts a dazzling figure. Dominating nearly a city block, the high-rise has two distinct sections, one glass and one brick, which are divided roughly along a diagonal.
To maximize views of the Statue of Liberty, Fort Greene Park and Lower Manhattan, 85 percent of its studios and one- and two-bedrooms are corner units. In living rooms, floors are white oak. In baths, they’re black slate. Every unit comes with stacked Bosch washers and dryers.
Amenities, covering about 40,000 square feet, include a 75-foot swimming pool and a lawn-lined terrace with a movie screen painted on a wall, a “modern day drive-in,” as Hub’s marketing materials put it.
“It’s important to create a community,” said Douglas C. Steiner, Steiner’s chairman, during a recent tour, as workers rushed to get the building ready for its March 1 opening. “The idea is to really offer a social hub, besides a place to sleep.”
That camaraderie will cost $2,655 a month, the starting price for studios, and $3,130 a month, the starting price for one-bedrooms, said Mr. Steiner. The company is also covering broker fees and throwing in a free month’s rent on a 12-month lease.
A quarter of the 600 apartments, reserved for those making below a certain income level, are available at reduced rents via a lottery; Steiner has received about 80,000 applications.
Still, leasing 450 market-rate apartments in 18 months, as Mr. Steiner hopes to do, will be difficult, according to some brokers. After a year, rental buildings often start competing with themselves.
Indeed, a renter who is considering renewing an existing lease and who hears about discounted empty apartments in the same building might demand a similar bargain, said David J. Maundrell, the founder and president of Aptsandlofts.com, a brokerage that often markets new rentals.
Mr. Maundrell added that the rental market may be shallower than many think. “It gets to the point where you start to wonder, how many people are out there that can afford rents like this?” he said.
Brooklyn’s rental market has certainly softened. In December, the median rent was $2,700 a month, down from $2,807 a month in December 2015, according to Douglas Elliman Real Estate. At the same time, concessions spiked, to about 14 percent of all new lease deals in December, Elliman said, up from 7 percent a year earlier.
The Ashland, developed by the Gotham Organization, also seem pressured. To lease the 304 of 586 units that are market rate, Gotham is paying broker fees, plus two months of free rent, said Christopher Jaskiewicz, Gotham’s chief operating officer.
Between June and early February, the Ashland had leased 120 of those 304 units, Mr. Jaskiewicz added, for pre-concession starting prices of $2,545 a month for studios and $3,244 for one-bedrooms.
Down the street, 300 Ashland, from Two Trees Management Company, is also jockeying for renters for its 303 market-rate apartments. Since July, the building has offered to pay broker fees and cover two free months on a 12-month lease. The current starting gross rent is $2,900 a month for studios and $3,500 for one-bedrooms.
For Mr. Steiner, any doom is overblown, adding that after Hub, no big rentals will be available for a while. “I think the press has been unfair about a glut,” he said.