Thought's In A Press

Call For Renewal Of Rent Regulation’s In A Press

In D.H.C.R., E.T.P.A., H.C.R.A., Landlord, N.Y.State, NYC Adminstration, People, Popular, Rent Regulation, Rent Stabilized, Service's on January 31, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Volume 20, Number 37 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 26 – February 1, 2011

Memo to Albany: Renew and reform rent regulations

BY Aline Reynolds

Affordable housing and other protections available to low-income tenants Downtown and citywide might disappear, if the state rent regulation law expires in June. State Assemblymembers representing four of the five boroughs held a hearing at 250 Broadway last Thursday, where several city housing advocacy groups and tenants testified about the importance of renewing the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, which applies to all buildings built in New York City before 1974. They are also lobbying for passage of the omnibus bill, which would make the E.T.P.A. effective in all city buildings. Brooklyn Assembly Member and Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez, who led the hearing, said there is a “major battle” going on between landlords seeking to deregulate the rents in their buildings, and tenants who are being driven out of their homes due to escalating rents. Strengthening rent regulation laws is a must, according to Manhattan Legal Services, an organization based in Lower Manhattan that offers legal services for low-income Manhattan tenants. Available rent-stabilized housing is becoming more and more scarce, causing low-income residents to live in households of three or more and save on basic necessities such as food to be able to afford escalating rents. Under the current law, owners of rent-stabilized apartments must submit documentation each year to the New York State Homes and Community Renewal agency. Tenants are entitled to lease renewals with succession rights to family members, and they can report complaints about landlord harassment, rent overcharges and poor living conditions to the agency. If a tenant’s rent exceeds $2,000 per month, and the household income exceeds $175,000 for two consecutive years, the landlord can be granted high-rent/high-income decontrol, per state approval. The state vacancy decontrol law, meanwhile, enables landlords to permanently take vacant apartments out of rent regulation. They can also deny new, free-market tenants lease renewals their predecessors had received when that same apartment was rent-stabilized. Both forms of rent decontrol often cause low-income tenants to vacate their apartments, because they can’t afford to pay the higher rents. But landlords can quickly find other tenants willing to pay market rates to occupy the units, leading to a loss of affordable housing and low vacancy rates. The state law allows cities of one million people or more that have vacancy rates of five percent or less to declare a housing emergency, allowing municipalities such as NYC to implement the E.T.P.A. According to the 2008 NYC Housing and Vacancy survey, the vacancy rate for regulated apartments in Lower Manhattan up to 14th street was one percent, plus or minus 1.2 percent. The vacancy rate for unregulated apartments was 4.7 percent, plus or minus 2.7 percent. Community Board 1 drafted a resolution at an affordable housing task force meeting Monday evening that calls for Governor Andrew Cuomo to renew and strengthen the state’s rent stabilization laws. It also asks to enforce stabilized housing through law, rather than give owners tax reductions that “limit the life of stabilized units.”

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