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Rent board votes Monday night on lease hikes as new Albany fight brews

Councilman Brad Lander says 100,000 rent stabilized units gone in four years.

The Rent Guidelines Board, in meeting at Cooper Union, votes Monday night on rent Wikimedia

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|<image-caption><p>Brad Lander</p></image-caption>|Twitter

Tenants rights groups are not at all happy with the recent deal in Albany to extend rent stabilization laws without any changes to preserve New York City’s ever-dwindling stock of affordable rental housing.

In fact, they’re now calling the deal the #BigUgly on social media, and Democrats are using it as one of several organizing issues in its fight to try and take back the Republican state Senate.

“There can be no strengthening of rent laws as long as the Republicans are in control of the state Senate,” said City Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn.

Lawmakers passed a four-year extension but tenant advocates don’t want to wait until the next expiration to get what they want, especially when it comes to vacancy decontrol.

Lander, the City Council’s deputy leader for policy told Metro that New York City will lose 100,000 more apartments (there are about one million now) to vacancy decontrol in the next four year without changes to the law.

“The deal known as the ‘Big Ugly’ is in fact a big, ugly result for tenants. This was a missed opportunity to take decisive action that would have best protected our tenant population and the affordable apartments they call home,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

RENT GUIDELINES BOARD
The grumbling comes as renters covered by the regs braced for a final vote Monday night on what the new rent hikes will be.

For a one-year lease, a range between 0% and 2% was possible; for a two-year lease, a range between 0.5% and 3.5 was expected.

The Rent Guidelines Board meeting to decide the increases was to begin at 6 p.m. at the Great Hall at Cooper Union, 7 East 7th Street, Manhattan. The meet was originally to be held last Wednesday but postponed as politicians duked it out.


VACANCY DECONTROL CRISIS
Two of the main items on the list of tenant demands that went nowhere fast in Albany were:
  • A push to end vacancy decontrol. The threshold for decontrol was boosted by $200 to $2,700 -- a move Adams called “a half-measure that will lead to a loss in affordable units.” When a unit hits the $2.700 threshold, it is no longer protected.
  • A demand to end the 20% landlord bonus: When a tenant vacates his or her apartment, landlords are entitled to automatically boost rent 20%


“New Yorkers have the right to be frustrated with Albany leadership and how they have addressed this most pressing of issues,” Adams said.

There is also the sense among tenant activists that Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t do enough, said Lander, who also conceded Cuomo was up against lawmakers who refused to budge.
The city’s rent laws, he noted, need approval by lawmakers from across the entire state, a fact that outrages city tenants. A state senator from Buffalo has as much over the city-specific protections as one from Brooklyn.
The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents, portrayed what happened in Albany or, rather, what did not happen, as a victory.
“Despite extraordinary efforts by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and tenant advocates to strengthen the rent laws, RSA, along with the Senate Republicans, advocated for the best possible outcome for the entire rental housing industry,” the RSA declared on its website.
John A. Oswald is editor-at-large for www.metro.us. Follow him on Twitter @nyc_oz.

 

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