West Point Day - 60th Anniversary

Remarks of Speaker Silver

Announcing Assembly Will Pass Omnibus Tenant Protection Package

State Capitol, Speaker's Conference Room
Monday, April 11, 2011 [ 3 P.M.]

{As Prepared for Delivery}

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, (at podium) flanked by his Assembly colleagues at a news conference at the Capitol announcing the Assembly's rent regulation bill (A.2674-A), made the point to reporters that the Assembly legislation would not only continue protections for tenants through rent stabilization, but it also would close loop holes in the law that removes thousands of affordable rent regulated apartments from the housing market each year.

(From left, first row) Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Speaker Silver and Assemblywomen Rhoda Jacobs and Annette Robinson. (From Left, second row) Assemblymen Michael DenDekker, Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez and Francisco Moya.

Affordable Rent for Working Families and Seniors  video camera

Extend Rent Regulation Housing Protections  video camera

Stop Loss of Affordable Apartments  video camera

Housing Becoming Unaffordable for New Yorkers  video camera

Good afternoon. We are here today to discuss affordable housing.

Whether we're talking about young parents, who are starting out in their first home, working two jobs to make their mortgage, to pay for day care, to afford a tank of gas, and to cover their property taxes;

Or we're talking about elderly couples living on fixed incomes, who are budgeting to afford groceries, pharmaceuticals, and to pay the landlord who owns the rent-regulated apartment where they have lived and raised their children for three, four, five decades or longer;

Society's goal - government's goal - should be to ensure that working families, children and senior citizens can afford to remain in their homes and in their communities.

This is the Assembly Majority's goal, and today we are taking important steps to achieve it.

As you know, in little more than 60 days, laws that keep housing affordable for more than one million New Yorkers are set to expire.

We are sincere about enabling families to remain in their homes and we are prepared to work with the Governor and with the Senate to extend the protections for our rent-regulated housing.

We must do more.

We must strengthen these rent protections, to stem the burgeoning affordable housing crisis in the city of New York.

Toward this end, we will be taking up and we intend to pass our omnibus tenant protection legislation this afternoon.

An explanation of the actions contained in our omnibus bill is outlined in the handouts we have given you.

Joining me in support of this legislation are numerous members of the Assembly Majority whose communities will be seriously affected if the rent laws are not extended.

Also with us are a number of housing advocates, including Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the Working Families Party. Speaking on the subject will be the Chair of the Committee on Housing and a longtime champion of tenants, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, as well as:

Several weeks ago, I and my New York City Delegation colleagues joined city leaders and tenant advocates on the steps of City Hall to unveil a report by the Community Service Society of New York.

The report, which you can find on the Assembly's web site, explains clearly and concisely the crisis in New York City, where affordable housing for our working families is disappearing every day.

At least 10,000 rent-stabilized apartments are lost in the city each year and that number is rising.

In 2009, landlords reported that they had removed 13,500 apartments from rent protection and this is what they voluntarily reported. The actual number is undoubtedly much higher.

The likelihood of finding a rent-regulated apartment in Manhattan, south of Harlem, dropped from 52 percent in 2001 to 31 percent in 2007. In Upper Manhattan, the likelihood dropped from 81 to 67 percent.

Given this trend and given the fact that there are more than one million rent-regulated households in New York City, implications for our working families are dire.

Through loopholes such as vacancy decontrol and major capital improvement increases, landlords are permanently removing apartments from rent regulation, making the city more and more unaffordable for average New Yorkers.

As these units disappear, middle- and low-income New Yorkers are being squeezed out and many neighborhoods are destabilizing.

To better understand what we mean by crisis, consider the following:

The median income of tenants living in rent-regulated apartments in the city of New York is $38,000 per year. In nearly half of these cases, the head of household is a first-generation immigrant.

Less affluent families who are covered by rent regulation pay, on average, 63 percent of their monthly income on rent.

If you find that shocking, consider that poor tenants who are residing in unregulated apartments pay 67 percent of their monthly income toward rent.

For a family struggling to make ends meet, the difference could be the little extra that ensures there is food on the table every night.

We are talking about hard-working New Yorkers who keep our streets safe, who fight fires, who teach our children, who build and maintain our infrastructure;

Men and women who pay their taxes and who have built and who maintain our great neighborhoods.

They are now in danger of being priced out of their homes.

Without crucial protections, working New Yorkers all over the City could find themselves priced out of their communities come June 15th of 2011.

This is why we want to end vacancy decontrol, limit rent increases after a landlord makes capital improvements, cut in half the percentage increase a landlord can charge after vacancy, and permit New York City to strengthen its rent protections beyond what the state allows.

Fortunately, we have a governor who supports the extension and enhancement of the rent laws. Now we need him to join us and to use his clout to bring together the relevant stakeholders and make it happen.

Given the suffering working families have endured since 2008 - losing jobs, losing pensions, losing homes - I ask you, is it right, is it fair, is it humane to allow tenants to fret about the future of their homes?

We are saying, GET THE JOB DONE NOW.

Pass our omnibus bill, sign it into law, and let's bring a measure of security to families and children and senior citizens living in rent-regulated housing.

There is no need to wait.