Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Now that rent regulation laws have expired (for the time being)

[Photo from June 9 by EVG reader Peter Brownscombe]

As you probably read, state lawmakers failed to strike a deal yesterday and let rent-control laws expire for some 2 million tenants.

Per The Wall Street Journal:

Senate President John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, said the debate would likely stretch out until the end of the legislative session on Wednesday, since lawmakers don’t want to go home without a deal. “Given the fact that we’re [in Albany] for another 48 hours, we’re going to have further discussions,” he said Monday evening.

Mr. Flanagan dismissed concerns that chaos could ensue at midnight: “Do I think anything tumultuous or crazy is going to happen overnight? Absolutely not.”

In a news conference after the vote, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, a Manhattan Democrat, said “this is the Senate Republicans telling tenants in New York City to drop dead.”

Last night, the city sent out a letter signed by Vicki Been, commissioner, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development:

If you are one of the more than two million New Yorkers who lives in rent-regulated housing, here's what you need to know:
• Your lease is still in effect and remains in effect through the term of the lease.
• There are still laws on the books protecting you from harassment, and the City is enforcing those laws.
• We have put together an emergency hotline: Call 311 if you have any concerns or questions about your apartment.
• If your landlord is harassing you, withholding services, or trying to exploit any lapse in the rent regulation laws to get you to leave your apartment, you should call 311 immediately.

If you are a landlord:
• Please know that the City is committed to protecting New Yorkers who live in rent-regulated units.
• If you have any questions about what information you should be sharing with your tenants, please call 311.
• Tenant harassment laws are still in effect. Any lapse in the rent regulation laws is not an excuse to withhold heat, hot water, or other services -- the City will enforce the housing code.

For more information on tenants' rights (in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Haitian Creole, and Arabic), please go here


Anonymous said...

This is such a win for de Blasio - pumps up his cred with NYers (which he will need when NYCHA starts raising rents this fall), it makes Cuomo look weak, creates a heck of a rallying cry, and leverages what activists really want -- which is the suspension of Urstadt Law. The only disappointment must be that after all the anticipation, no tenants reported harassment. But that might change the longer this drags out. Gotta admire de Blasio's political savvy in purposefully leaving it up to the proverbial last minute to announce his political goals though the deadline was looming way back when. Savvy politics.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the politicians will wise up and finally end rent control!

Anonymous said...

Is THIS is the real reason they ran Sheldon Silver out of Albany? How likely is it that these shenanigans would be ongoing, if he were still in office?

Anonymous said...

"Maybe the politicians will wise up and finally end rent control!"

Oh, good grief. Maybe New Yorkers and the rest of the state will more fully understand that while there are some downsides for the very rich and profiteers with reasonable rent control laws, the upside of rent regulation is that millions of New Yorkers have lived richer and more stable lives not having to continuously scramble for housing. Rent control not only helps individual residents by giving them some (rather minimal) power over building owners but it helps stabilize whole neighborhoods. Yes, sure, there are some instances of abuse and/or landlord neglect because of rent control but I shutter to think what might have become of post-70s New York without rent control laws in place. It's also true that the current rent regulations need to be reworked some but I'd argue that for the overall good of the city and state, rent regulation should be extended to some commercial spaces and that the elderly and infirm should be better protected than the are today.

It just closed but there was a wonderful show at Interference Archive in Brooklyn this spring focused on tenant organizing in NYC from the 1940s to the present. Tenant organizations helped make housing integrated and affordable for millions of New Yorkers. If you have an interest in rent regulation in NYC, it's worth tracking down the catalog for We Won't Move! Tenants Organize in New York City. http://interferencearchive.org/we-wont-move-tenants-organize-in-new-york-city/.

Anonymous said...

Bingo Anon 10:52 - exactly why they got rid of Silver. He was out for himself and what he could get. Heastie will keep the heat on the Dems so there is no sitting down with the Repubs. The real goal for the City Council and de Blasio is not stronger rent laws but the repeal of Urstadt Law. Once that happens, the sky is the limit as far as the length and breadth of laws that come into place that are anti-landlord and pro-rent regulation.

Anonymous said...

It probably won't happen, but maybe this would be a good time to fix rent control - not end it.

As it works now, all it does is reward people who never move. If you look back you'll find that the way to get into a rent control apartment was to bribe the super or renting agent and there you were. Now 25 years later you have people who should never have been subject to rent control saving their rent money in the city and buying places upstate with the profit. I'm sure there are many, many deserving tenants under rent control leases, but the only people I have ever met living in those apartments were professional people with second homes elsewhere.

So, as I recognize the need for strict rent control, here is my proposal - 10-20% of all rental properties in any given building MUST be rent controlled. I don't care whether it's a flea pit in Flushing or the latest luxury on the UES, you want to rent apartments in NYC, a minimum percentage will be rent control and there are zero loopholes. Rent control apartments are rented based on income, residence, and occupation. If you live in LES, you get points for RC in LES, if you are teacher or a nurse you get points, if your income is xxx you get points. And here's the kicker - you re-apply / re-qualify every 5 years. If you are no longer eligible, you get a year to move, but move you will.

According to NMHC there are 1.5M apartments rented in NYC. So if we had 20% of those under "real" rent control that would be 300,000 units. That's a whole let better than the 1.9% of units currently rent controlled which NEVER turn over because of the existing broken system.

Hey, it will never happen because the people who give money to the RE interests in Albany just want all the poor people to move out of the city ASAP (and they define poor as making less than $200k a year)

Anonymous said...

What are the ramifications of repealing the. Urstadt law? How would going 100% 'anti landlord' work? What would be the financial impact on the city? The 'sky is the limit'? On people never moving? On only the rich moving here because nobody else can afford to? Who pays for repairs if the advocates freeze rents and go anti landlord? Whats the impact on property values/taxes? What about all the fraud and abuse?

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, the Republican controlled state legislature wants...no...they desire to end rent control because they love to practice class discrimination against the middle and lower income residents of NYC. What they don't get is that by practicing class discrimination in NYC they are also acting as racists. NYC should be a separate state....let's secede from NYS and become the 51st State of The Union. They won't be so happy after that. They just want landlords to create more revenue so it can be taxed which ultimately is at the expense of the working man.

Anonymous said...

Under NY City management NYCHA is facing operating deficits of $200 million and needs $17 billion in major capital improvements (estimated btw as real tally could be way higher!)?

"NYCHA houses over 400,000 people in the city in 178,000 apartments, and maintains a waiting list of over 150,000 more in need of affordable housing. NYCHA accounts for 8 percent of the city's housing stock, but more than half of the units renting for less than $800 per month."

Under NYC management and control NYCHA "affordable housing" is a public disaster endangering people lives and forcing them to live in inhumane conditions. If Urstadt is repealed what do you think will happen to rent regulated apartments under private control? The #1 worst landlord in the City is the City. Why is the Tenant Protection Unit not going after NYCHA? So how come no one is being put into jail or at least put NYCHA employees into those same dilapidated apartments!

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:33 Republicans passed a bill which would extend rent regulations for eight years - this is not ending rent control. But the bill does include income verification and would mandate that the apartments are the tenants primary residence - none of which is a terror for honest people who are in need of affordable housing.

But Dems do not want to even extend the regulations even until Feb. 1 2016, and continue talks. They want to continue the stalemate and have Cuomo declare an emergency repealing Urstadt. Who is playing with the lives of 2 million NYers? The Democrats are gambling in this case. Will see how it plays out.

Anonymous said...

I wrote to the Governor...ya'll might want to do that too...

Anonymous said...

While I am sure there are some people with rent control apartments who have apartment upstate, I can't name anyone of the dozens of neighbors and friends I know with rent-stabilized apartments who have second homes. Also, don't assume rent-stabilized folks are paying $400 a month. Many of us are close to the $2,500 threshold, and I think nearly $2,500 for a one bedroom is more than a fair rent. My landlord sure isn't suffering for cash!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's true, that once in a while someone abuses rent regulations but that's a reason to, say, fund the agencies over seeing rent control a little better, not at all a reason to stop rent regulation.

bowboy said...

If RS/RC units were based on the tenants income, the first thing I'd do is quit my 40+ hours/wk impossible job for a major bank and take a cushy part-time gig at a local not-for-profit. It makes no sense to remove the motivation to earn more from tenants by basing their rent on their income. Please, dare me to earn less and be less productive for the City.

And secondly, if a person was willing to live here when no one else wanted to, and they still live here, I think they deserve a RS/RC apartment. The only people crying about RS/RC are the ones who were too scared to move here 20 years ago, but somehow don't want anyone rewarded for sticking it out through the crime-n-grime years. They want an equal reward for just moving here in the past 5 years. How's that fare?

Anonymous said...

Under NYC management and control NYCHA "affordable housing" is a public disaster endangering people lives and forcing them to live in inhumane conditions. ... The #1 worst landlord in the City is the City...."

No, the worst landlord in the City is the State. The state has handcuffed, gagged, and bound NYCHA since day one. It was designed to fail. The fact that it took so long is a testament to the City's resourcefulness. It would be very simple to change the NYCHA regs so it could run efficiently, but the State will never do it, because they're a bunch of racist pricks. Happy to take our money and then laugh at us.

The current impasse stinks of Cuomo, out to get DeBlasio in an unfair fight. Again.

Anonymous said...

I think HUD has had more impact than NY State on NYCHA. And it is the NYC Mayor that appoints the seven members of the NYCHA Board and selects the Chair. But could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

"This is our modern day Trail of Tears," she said. "This is an assault against humanity." said Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo D-Brooklyn comparing situation to the mass removal of Native Americans from their land.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 1:22 pm
Please don't take my word for it --- how about investigative journalism? http://www.thenation.com/blog/180246/new-york-city-housing-authority-may-be-citys-worst-landlord

My point is how come the Tenant Protection Unit is not going after NYCHA? "Due to a special exemption for NYCHA apartments, low-income tenants generally lack the same protection under city housing codes that applies to private housing residents." Why not correct this tale of two cities? No one cares about "the oldest, the sickest and the youngest"?

Edmund Dunn said...

“Rent Control”. When I see people posting on thread related to the sunset of the New York State Rent Stabilization law and say “Rent Control", then how can I even take the rest of their post seriously when they do not even reference the correct residential rent regulation. And prior to vacancy decontrol, rent stabilized apartments did turn over as people got married, had children, then become empty nesters, retired, etc. They did not rapidly turnover yearly like the student/just post grad transient parental funded demographic that REBNY loves so much but turnover they did.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to de Blasio for some seriously fabulous political staging "announcing the indictment of a landlord who was allegedly harassing tenants" against the backdrop of the expired rent regulation laws.

while fellow progressive Spitzer wants to build "56 unit mega development along the waterfront just south of the Williamsburg Bridge with 20% affordable housing" for $700 million dollars. I wonder if they got 421a before it expired?

Anonymous said...

If I were motivated by my own self-interest, here is how I see it: If all the regulated apartments were suddenly unregulated, the rent would not skyrocket on them. It would go up, to be sure, but there aren't enough people to rent them to at current market rates. So the people currently paying next to nothing would have to pay more. Some would not want to, and would move, leaving the apartment available for people like me, who would wind up paying less than I do currently.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

@Anonymous June 17, 2015 at 11:26 AM

The GOP 10 year extension of rent regs as they are would be a disaster for tenants as long as the bill still contains vacancy decontrol, MCI and IAI as is, and the 20% vacancy bonus and the preferential rent loophole. All of the provisions I mentioned will slowly but surely kill rent regs and pit market rate against rent regulated in a classic divide and conquer strategy.

Regarding means testing tenants.

First, the rent stabilization system was adopted to ensure reasonable rents for EVERYONE. It was designed to ensure fair bargaining relations between owners and tenants – rich or poor. It clearly benefits low income tenants, but it was never intended to serve as a social welfare.

Second. Means testing creates a situation in which landlords would then rent only to the wealthy in order to destabilize RS units.

Third. The DHCR -- the already overworked, underfunded state agency that's already struggling to keep its head above water -- would sink like a stone if tasked with the bureaucratic nightmare of going over the hundreds of thousands of individual RS leases that get renewed yearly or every other year in NYC.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

Ed Dunn

Yup. And you'd think that people who don't have a clue what they're talking about would be smart enough to keep their yaps shut, anony-mouse or not.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

Why are people here conflating rent regulations with NYCHA? That's apples and oranges. Rent stabilization is not a subsidy. No one is taxed to keep rents down, no one is forced to build or rent a RS apt, no $$$ is transferred from one party to another.

As far as NYCHA being a disaster, you can place the blame squarely on the US Congress. It is GOP Congress that doles out the $$ for public housing and there has been a shortfall in the $ hundreds of millions since the GOP induced Sequester.

Anonymous said...

The part no one ever mentions about means-testing is this: If you're paying $$$ for your apartment and you get downsized out of your job, will your rent actually go DOWN?

Right, I didn't think so!

And that is the flaw in the theory of means-testing.

Anonymous said...

EV Grieve. Do you know why the city can't just take these laws and protections over from the state legislature? Regardless of what the state legislature thinks, is there no way that the city can just copy and paste the laws to protect rent regulated tenants as city law?

I can't afford to live in my place if rent regulations are allowed to expire. And I cannot deal with this cliffhanger coming up every year.

I resent this coming up and I also resent being at the mercy of politician from places without any notion of what we live through, and who are clueless.

It is time to bring rent regulation into the jurisdiction of City residents.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

June 17, 2015 at 5:08 PM

If all the regulated apartments were suddenly unregulated, the rent would not skyrocket on them.

Before Boston’s rent laws got tossed out their vacancy rate was 4%. Four years after it was 2.9%. Scrapping rent regs had no positive measurable effect on apartment availability but it did manage to double the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the meantime. Rents have grown about twice as fast as wages since then.

So dream on.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

@ June 17, 2015 at 8:24 PM

The city has its hands tied by 1971's Urstadt Law which which took away NYC's power to pass local rent laws that are stricter than the state's. Democrats and tenant activists claim that the governor could dissolve Urstadt by Executive Order if the state legislature continues to remain at an impasse. That would give control over NYC rent laws back to city gov't.

Unlike the current arrangements, voters in NYC could then vote out mayors and city councilpeople who pass ant-tenant legislation. As it stands now, we can't vote out the upstate GOPers in the state senate who have been weakening rent laws and screwing tenants since the 1980s.

On a related note. This evening (Thu June 18th), the governor will not be in Albany trying to extend and strengthen rent laws, he'll be at the Plaza Hotel at a fundraiser for himself. Tenants will be in front of the hotel to remind him what's important, at 6PM. The Plaza's at 59th and Fifth. It's a good excuse to get out of the neighborhood for a few hours and mingle with the 1%.

Anonymous said...

Urstadt Law was challenged in court and upheld as no local municipality should have rights which exceed State rights. The current situation is being used to engineer a stalemate and back Cuomo into repealing Urstadt Law, on the part of the Dems., with Heastie in the lead (who himself is not above shady real estate deals http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/nyregion/carl-heastie-new-york-assembly-speaker-benefited-from-mothers-embezzling.html?_r=0)

Last time it was de Blasio vs. Cuomo, it was de Blasio who won. Will see what happens.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

June 18, 2015 at 6:27 AM

The current situation is being used to engineer a stalemate and back Cuomo into repealing Urstadt Law, on the part of the Dems

I disagree. It's (1) to alert the State Senate GOP that if they do their usual walk away at session's end leaving their proposal on the table with a "take it or leave it," Ursdadt repeal is what the Party will lay on the governor in response (2) to alert the governor of his party's position if the GOP walks away. Cuomo does not want that to happen.

Anonymous said...

Albany anti human human eating soros liquiteria communist political losers.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

Tenant protest outside of Cuomo's Fundraiser at 6PM tonight, Thurs 6-18-15
Plaza hotel - 59th and 5th Ave.
From the Met Council on Housing
#TenantTakeover #RealAffordability #1MillionHomes #yearofthetenant

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Boston was brought up as example but with no actual numbers. Yes vacancy rate dropped but the median apt. in Boston with no rent regulation is $1,263 while the median apt. in NYC with 1 million rent regulated apts. and sixty years of history is $1,228.

It would be great to fix the system but the proposed changes by de Blasio would actually increase sales of properties to larger holdings at bargain prices who have the financial reserves to sit tight until the regs change again.

Though I wonder if rent regulations are given to New York City control will City Council members have to give up their rent regulated apts.? Isn't there an ethical rule against self-enrichment? http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/06/8570051/some-lawmakers-rent-regulation-fight-personal

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

If NYC rent laws were killed today, we'd see a replay of Boston. Rents would double or more overnight on the formerly RS apts and that would be that. Market rates would not come down, they didn't in Boston and your $1,263 median NYC rent would jump through the roof. NYC would rapidly become as insanely expensive as Hong Kong. Good luck with that, NYC has a median household income of $50,711.

And since when would city councilpeople having rent stabilized apartments count as "self-enrichment?" Every renting NYer deserves rights to remain in their homes without fear of insane rent increases and arbitrary eviction and that includes members of the city council, staffers, etc.

Louis E. said...

NYC rent regulation was introduced as a temporary measure that was supposed to end after WW II,and every extension since then has been an act of bad faith.