April 14, 2010

Mitchell-Lama Residents Offered Better Protection Under Legislation Passed By Assembly

Proposals Would Help Encourage Continued Participation in Mitchell-Lama Program, Protect Tenants from Sudden Rate Hikes

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez and Mitchell-Lama Housing Subcommittee Chair Linda B. Rosenthal today announced the passage of a package of legislation intended to strengthen the Mitchell-Lama program through measures that include protecting tenants after buy-outs and ensuring that essential services are maintained in Mitchell-Lama buildings.

The Mitchell-Lama program was created in 1955 and provides affordable housing to middle-income families across the state by giving developers low-interest mortgage rates and real property tax exemptions. The Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) of 1974 provides rent stabilization to non-rent controlled apartments in buildings with six or more units in Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties.

"Earlier this year we passed legislation that would help bring federal funding for vital repairs to housing owned by the New York City Housing Authority - now, it's time that we help middle-income families by adding increased protections under the Mitchell-Lama program," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "Adding incentives for housing companies to stay in the program will help prevent the rent hikes that would ensue if these buildings were no longer protected under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act. Additionally, measures passed today would ensure that tenants in these buildings are protected from inadequate maintenance and repairs."

"The economic downturn has been especially devastating for working families," said Lopez (D-Brooklyn). "It's crucial that we take steps to ensure that they have access to affordable housing by offering incentives for Mitchell-Lama developers to continue participating in the program. This will in turn help to ease the financial burden on middle-income New Yorkers who may otherwise have to give up their apartment due to rent increases that often follow a buy-out."

"The removal of rental units from Mitchell-Lama regulation is deeply disturbing, and we cannot allow longstanding tenants to be priced out of their homes," said Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan). "As Chair of the Mitchell-Lama Housing Subcommittee, I am proud that my legislation will prevent these tenants from experiencing sudden and drastic rent increases. From landlord harassment to exorbitant housing rates, tenants face difficult burdens and I am committed to fighting for their protection."

Legislation passed by the Assembly would extend ETPA protections to Mitchell-Lama buildings occupied after January 1, 1974, by authorizing localities in Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties to declare a housing emergency in these buildings after a buy-out (A.2498/Pretlow). Under current law, tenants in such buildings are not protected from the skyrocketing rents often associated with the buy-out of state-subsidized housing.

Additional legislation included in the package would:

Earlier this week the Assembly passed legislation that would require owners of Mitchell-Lama housing to provide notice to tenants of a buy-out no less than twelve months prior to the date of dissolution (A.2361/V. Lopez) and would encourage housing companies to remain in the Mitchell-Lama program by allowing investors to receive a greater return on their investment than is currently allowed by statute (A.2933/V. Lopez).