April 18, 2012

Assembly Announces Measures to Further Strengthen Rent Protections for Hardworking New Yorkers

Calls on DHCR to Swiftly Enact Strong Rules and Regulations Outlined in 2011 Rent Agreement

Proposals Will Help Ensure the Economic Security of More than a Million Households and Stabilize Neighborhoods

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Legislation to protect tenants was the focus of Speaker Silver (at podium), Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez and other members of the Assembly Majority at a Capitol news conference today where eight housing bills were announced. Silver said this year's legislation would build on the measures signed into law in 2011 to ensure the availability of affordable housing for New Yorkers. From left: Assemblymembers Vanessa Gibson, Brian Kavanagh, Linda Rosenthal, and Marcos Crespo.

Building on last year's success in strengthening the state's rent laws for the first time in nearly two decades, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Housing Committee Chairman Vito Lopez today announced a package of bills to further expand tenant protections that ensure everyone has access to decent and affordable housing.

They also called on Governor Cuomo and the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to swiftly enact rules and regulations as required by last year's rent agreement to provide tenants with vital protections.

"While we were able to make some important gains last year led by Assembly Democrats, the facts are that we still are faced with an affordable housing crisis in New York," said Silver. "The package we are announcing today will help ensure that New Yorkers have a strong supply of rent-regulated housing for generations to come. We also intend to continue our push for the swift establishment of rules and regulations mandated by last year's historic rent agreement to give our tenants the utmost protections."

"Affordable housing is the essential foundation for all New Yorkers. In the Assembly, we have taken critical steps to protect the rights of tenants and homeowners, ensuring that they can remain in their homes and communities by providing rent protections and limiting owners abilities to excessively raise rents," said Assemblyman Lopez, chair of the Housing Committee. "These measures will enhance rent protections and preserve quality affordable housing for seniors and working families."

The bills in the package will help ensure the economic security of more than one million households and the stability of neighborhoods throughout New York. They include:

A.1364-A (Jeffries) - Preferential Rent
Disallows the practice of increasing preferential rent to the legally allowed rate when the lease is renewed; it would allow such increases only upon vacancy. The rent may not be increased, however, if the vacancy is caused by the landlord's failure to maintain a habitable residence. Some landlords attract tenants with a low preferential rent and then increase the price beyond the tenant's means, forcing them out and allowing the landlord to push units out of rent regulation.

A.1892-A (Rosenthal) - Rent Control Increases from MBR system to RGB
Requires DHCR to use the same formula in determining rent increases for rent-controlled apartments that the Rent Guidelines Board uses to determine rent increases for rent-stabilized apartments. Many rent controlled tenants face a regular 7.5 percent increase to their rent every year. An increase of this amount is consistently higher than those experienced by rent stabilized tenants and tenants in market rate units.

Silver also was joined at the news conference by Maggie Russell-Ceardi of Tenants and Neighbors. Russell-Ceardi, along with other members of Tenants and Neighbors, traveled to Albany to show their support for the Assembly's legislation, which addresses the affordable housing crisis in New York and protects tenant rights.
A.2459-A (O'Donnell) -Major Capital Improvements
Requires rent surcharges authorized for major capital improvements to cease when the cost of the improvement has been recovered. Current law grants landlords permanent rent increases for making major capital improvements to their buildings that are necessary to keep them habitable.

A.2593-A (Lopez) - Vacancy Rent Increase
Reduces the amount of rent increase after a vacancy from 20 percent to 10 percent of the rent. High vacancy increases encourage landlords to strive for higher turnover in their rental units.

A.2750-A (Pretlow) -Protecting Former Mitchell Lama
Requires buildings that are removed by their landlords from the Mitchell-Lama program to become rent-stabilized, even if constructed after 1974, which provides continuing rent and eviction protection to the tenants in the former Mitchell-Lama buildings. The bill also would prohibit an owner from applying to DHCR for a rent adjustment based on the presence of unique or peculiar circumstances. This bill would ensure that affordable housing created through the Mitchell-Lama program continues to remain affordable.

A.2994 (Lopez) - Section 8
Extends eviction and rent protection to those tenants living in former federal project-based section 8 buildings, even if the building had been constructed prior to 1974. It would ensure that affordable housing subsidized through the Section 8 program continues to remain affordable.

A.3033 (Lopez) - Landlord Recovery for Personal Use
Limits a building owner's ability to recover a rent-regulated apartment for personal use. Some landlords have used this provision in order to displace many rent-regulated tenants, even when the landlord or the landlord's family did not have an immediate need for the apartment.

A.6394-B (Kavanagh) - Rent Guidelines Board - City Council Confirmation
Requires City Council confirmation of the Mayor's appointees to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board. It also would allow qualified individuals from other related fields to serve on the rent guidelines board.

Silver and Lopez said the bills in the package were reported out of the Housing Committee today and Assembly action on the entire package is expected later this session.

"Our accomplishment last year was historic, and was an important step in the right direction. But it is incumbent on us to do much more," said Maggie Russell-Ciardi Executive Director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors. "Rent regulated tenants across New York City and the suburban counties are still facing unaffordable rent increases that could result in their being displaced from their homes and communities. And every rent increase - whether an MCI increase, an RGB adjustment, a 7.5 percent increase in a rent controlled tenant's Maximum Collectible Rent, or the vacancy bonus a landlord collects when a tenant has to move out because her rent is too high- brings that apartment's legal regulated rent closer to the deregulation threshold. Rent regulation is an important component of New York's affordable housing stock, but only if rent regulated housing is actually affordable to low and moderate income people. These bills help ensure that New York's rent regulated housing will remain truly affordable for the people who depend on it, and extend the length of time that rent regulated apartments are likely to remain in their affordability program."