Sun Set, Sun Rise on Rent Regulations


As the sun sets on June 15th and the New York City's rent laws expire, there is much optimism that not only millions of renters in the city, but also those upstate and on Long Island will wake-up on June 16th to the good news that the State will protect them from being tossed out to the street. With the 2018 election result of a democratic majority in both the NYS Assembly and Senate, much pent-up rent grievances have materialized into many proposed laws in closing landlord loopholes allowing rent gouging, evictions, and no tenant protections across the city and the state.

At the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club's April 18th general meeting at the Hudson Guild Elliott Center, Michael McKee, treasurer of TenantsPAC, gave the group a schooling of the proposed rent laws now laying on the doorstep of Albany's State Capital Building. McKee has been a life long housing warrior with over forty plus years of fighting for tenants rights. His past battles have been within groups that include the NYS Tenants and Neighbors Coalition (founder), Metropolitan Council on Housing, Peoples Housing Network, and serve two years on the Temporary NYS Commission on Rental Housing. McKee also offered his opinions on Pied-A-Terre Tax, Hudson Yards, Airbnb, the Mayor DeBlasio's controversial zoning changes in the name of affordable housing and future. The program was directed by Judy Richheimer, President, CRDC.

McKee's battle cry: "We need to close the loopholes inserted in the rent laws over the last 25 years plus, starting with vacancy decontrol which has caused us to lose 400,00 to 450,000 apartments in NYC and 50,000 in the suburb counties. Our bill would not only appeal vacancy decontrol. It would deregulate 98% of the apartments that have been deregulated in the past 25 years. It would bring back about 450.000 market rate apartments that are now without any rent and eviction protections."

"The proposed laws before before the State Senate and Assembly include extending rent regulations to buildings of six and fewer units and also expanding optional rent regulations to upstate and to Long Island. There are about 600,000 apartments in NYC in buildings of six or fewer units that are not controlled by rent stabilization. This is important, as arbitrary eviction is common." said McKee, adding "Just last week the municipalities of Hudson, Kingston, and Newburgh passed resolutions calling for statewide rent stabilization."

McKee supplied the assembly guests a list of proposed laws that not only renews but also reforms the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974:

—Reform “Preferential Rent” (S2845/A4349) (Krueger/Cymbrowitz): Requires that preferential rent leases last for the duration of the tenancy.

—End “Vacancy Decontrol” (S2591/A1198) (Stewart-Cousins/Rosenthal): Repeals vacancy decontrol and re-regulates deregulated apartments that rent for less under $5,000 in NYC and $3,500 in suburbs.

—Eliminate the “Vacancy Bonus” (S185/A2351) (Serrano/Pichardo): Eliminates the 20% bonus on “legal rent” landlords may add to legal rent when an apartment changes hands.

—Eliminate Rent Hikes Caused by Major Capital Improvements (S3693/A6322) (Gianaris/Barnwell): Eliminates landlords’ ability to pass the cost of necessary building repairs onto renters.

—Stop Harassment and Deregulation Caused by Individual Apartment Improvement Increases (S3770/A06465) (Kavanagh/Richardson): When apartments are vacant, landlords often make cosmetic repairs in order to raise the rent and reach the deregulation threshold. This bill would eliminate that.

—Reform the Four Year Rule (S4169/A5251) (Myrie/Dinowitz): While tenants in rent stabilized apartments are able to challenge rent increases, thanks to the “four year rule,” they are limited in their ability to fight older, but often fraudulent, “legal” rents.

—Expand the Emergency Tenant Protection Act  (S5040/A7046) (Breslin/Cahill): Only New York City and the surrounding counties can opt into rent regulation. This is not fair. Localities should decide for themselves whether or not they want to opt into a system to protect tenants. This bill gives all places in New York State the option to decide for themselves.

—Good Cause Eviction (S2892/A5030) (Salazar/Hunter): Gives every tenant in New York State the right to a renewal lease with fair terms from the landlord. Tenants may still be evicted for “good cause.”

—Rent Control Relief (S299/A167) (Benjamin/Rosenthal): Brings “rent control” increases in line with “rent stabilization” increases.

In gauging the possible passage of the rent laws McKee opined, "On Planet Albany you take nothing for granted. Just because we have a democratic majority doesn't mean we get what we want. We have to work for it. We have very powerful enemies that have a lot of money," referring to Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY). "Never forget that their money comes rents that we pay!" McKee urged everyone to join him for "Rent Lobby Day" in Albany on May 14th. The office of NY City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is organizing a bus trip.

McKee offered the group his personal opinions of the current state of New York City which is amidst a spiral of losing affordable housing:

Pied-A-Terre Tax: The city’s housing stock is attracting the international elite in buying second and third homes in Manhattan as a way to invest, and even money-launder cash. "This was a tax that was a done deal." said McKee. "It was in the budget to the 11th hour, then REBNY hired NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's college roommate and all of a sudden it's off the table!"
Mayor DeBlasio's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning Plan: McKee exclaimed, "I find it absolutely absurd that we are subsidizing the creation of market rate housing with our tax dollars  that include subsidizing people who don't live here and are just parking money from foreign countries. The city rezoning marginal areas for new development of market rate housing should stop. No matter what you do it is going to stimulate gentrification and displacement. No tax dollars should go to anything other than permanent low income and moderate income housing."

Hudson Yards: "We've created a suburban mall for the rich on the west side of Manhattan. We paid through the nose for it." McKee said, explaining that Hudson Yards to finance in part through the EB-3 Program meant for the poor also called the called the Cash for Visas Program. "Gerrymander a map so they could incorporate public housing projects on the upper west side and in Harlem in order to call it a distressed area is nothing short of scandal."

AIRBNB: "Airbnb is planning a public offering and NYC is it's biggest market and their overwhelming majority of their profits from NYC comes from illegal rentals and illegal hotels.  Everyone knows the the Airbnb Dream Bill was written by Airbnb. They are describing it as a state wide bill when in fact it only applies to NYC."

Future Plans of Rent Reform: "We want to completely redesign the whole system next year. There are a of things like tax subsidized buildings where the rent stabilization is temporary. There's also non-profit owners like hospitals and universities that have carte blanche. They can evict people at will."

Big thanks to CRDC Recording Secretary Linda Longstreet in handling the refreshments, and CRDC Executive Committee Member Joanne Adler Sinovoi with set-up!

Chelsea Reform Democratic Club
PO Box 1120,
Old Chelsea Station,
New York, NY, 10113-1120