Brooklyn Boro

Rent reform hearing to take place Thursday

May 14, 2019 Raanan Geberer
A public hearing on rent regulation is scheduled for Thursday. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

During a seven-hour hearing on Thursday, the State Senate Majority will listen as tenants and landlords deliver testimony at a public hearing on rent regulations.

The hearing, which takes place once a year, will last from 1-8 p.m at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights.

Every year, the state Rent Guidelines Board proposes allowable rent increases in rent-stabilized apartment buildings. This year, it has proposed 0.5 to 2.75 percent increases with one-year leases; 1.5 to 2.75 percent increases with two-year leases; and a 10 percent increase in sublets.

This year, the Rent Law of 2015 — itself an extension of an earlier law — is set to expire. Taking advantage of this opportunity, tenant advocates such as the group Housing Justice for All are proposing a series of bills they call “Universal Rent Control.”

The proposals include an expansion statewide of the opportunity to opt into rent stabilization, an end to vacancy decontrol (a process that allows landlords to deregulate apartments once the rent reaches $2,733 a month and the current tenant moves out), an elimination of the 20 percent “vacancy bonus” landlords are granted every time an apartment turns over, and more.

Brooklyn elected officials — and others across New York City — mostly Democrats, tend to be on the tenant side of rent controversies and landlord-tenant controversies in general.

For example, Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach) said in a statement, “Preserving neighborhood affordability, and protecting the people who live in the city and across the state, continue to be among the Assembly’s top priorities. We welcome the public’s thoughts as we consider how best to enhance tenant protections and address the housing needs of New York’s rent-regulated tenants.”

State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-North Brooklyn), an advocate of universal rent control, introduced one of its components in Albany: The “Good Cause” Eviction Bill. The bill would “prohibit landlords from evicting tenants without a valid reason, such as non-payment of rent or property damage,” according to her website.

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The interests of New York City landlords who own rent-stabilized apartment buildings are represented by the Rent Stabilization Association and the Real Estate Board of New York. RSA frequently characterizes most of its members as small “mom and pop” landlords who have trouble breaking even financially because of rising oil, electricity, labor and other costs.

“This year’s preliminary range falls far short of 3.0% and 9.25% for one- and two-year leases which are the top of the ranges proposed by Rent Guidelines Board staff,” RSA said in a statement. “The board’s failure to set ranges between these numbers is a clear indication that they continue to prioritize a tenant-friendly agenda rather than consider reasonable guidelines that are fair to both owners and tenants.”

John Banks, the president of REBNY, told Curbed that the rent reforms that have been proposed “do nothing to ease vacancy rates, make apartments more affordable or create a single new affordable unit. Instead, they threaten to put small landlords who own the majority of the city’s rent-regulated units in financial crisis and stifle the construction of affordable housing in the future.”

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