Local pols react as Albany prepares to change rent laws

June 13, 2019 Paula Katinas
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Democrats push sweeping reforms favoring tenants

Brooklyn lawmakers expressed satisfaction and relief as the State Legislature prepared to vote for a sweeping series of rent law reforms that could affect New York City housing for generations.

The State Senate and State Assembly reached an agreement late Tuesday on legislation that includes making rent stabilization laws permanent. Under the current system, the rent laws expire periodically and come up for renewal in the legislature once every few years.

More than 2 million New Yorkers live in rent stabilized or rent controlled housing units.

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The new legislation, called the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, is expected to be voted on before June 15, the day the state’s rent laws expire.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat representing Bay Ridge and other Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, said the new law will help tens of thousands of people in his district.

“The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act will provide New York’s tenants with the strongest protections they have ever had and will be a big step forward in addressing skyrocketing housing costs and homelessness. For the tens of thousands of working-class and middle-class families in our district who are renters, these sweeping tenant protections will provide much-needed relief,” Gounardes, a freshman lawmaker, told the Home Reporter in an email.

The permanent extension of rent regulations means that the laws will not sunset at any time in the future unless the legislature votes to repeal.

The legislation repeals a law that allowed landlords to remove rental units from rent stabilization when the rent crossed a high-rent threshold and the unit became vacant. Since the deregulation law was first passed in 1994, 300,000 units have been removed from rent stabilization.

Gounardes vowed to conduct an education campaign to familiarize his constituents with the new laws. “I look forward to working with both tenants and landlords in the district to ensure they understand the effects of this legislation and their rights under the new rules,” he said.

Another freshman lawmaker, state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, called the reforms the most substantial housing measures in more than 70 years.

“This bill is the strongest package of tenant protections New York has seen since World War II. For decades, our communities have lost hundreds of thousands of rent regulated units, but with this legislation, we are putting power back in the hands of tenants,” said Myrie, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Sunset Park, Park Slope and Crown Heights.

Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, a Democrat whose Bay Ridge-Coney Island district contains more than 18,000 rent-regulated apartments, said the new law will offer tenants stability.

“I’m very happy with the tenant protection package that was agreed to. By making common sense rent protections permanent, we provide all New Yorkers a degree of stability that gives them a chance to catch their breath financially. Among the many good things this package of laws provides, it prevents price gouging through vacancy bonuses that previously allowed landlords to raise rent by as much as 20 percent and allows the preferential rent rate to become permanent for the life of the tenancy,” she said.

Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis told the Home Reporter she planned to review the new legislation.

“My concern is striking a balance where tenants are protected and owners can continue to make improvements for the health and safety of occupants. One thing that needs to be addressed is the skyrocketing property taxes that have led to higher rents, empty storefronts and an unsustainable rise in the cost of living for homeowners and tenants alike,” said Malliotakis, who represents parts of Bay Ridge and Staten Island.

The agreement was announced by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

“These reforms give New Yorkers the strongest tenant protections in history,” the two leaders said in a joint statement.

The New York Times reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated that he would sign the legislation.

Property owners expressed disappointment with the bill, charging that it will hurt small, mom-and-pop landlords.

The group Taxpayers for an Affordable New York issued a statement slamming the bill and warning that the legislation will not do what it is intended to do.

“This legislation fails to address the city’s affordable housing crisis and will lead to disinvestment in the city’s private sector rental stock consigning hundreds of thousands of rent regulated tenants to living in buildings that are likely to fall into disrepair,” the statement read.

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