Albany touts an affordable housing plan

The New York State Assembly last week introduced a package of bills inended to further expand tenant protections that would ensure everyone has access to decent and affordable housing.

Building on last year’s success in strengthening the state’s rent laws for the first time in nearly two decades, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Assistant Speaker Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) also called on Gov. Andrew 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 have made progress, the facts are that we still are faced with an affordable housing crisis in New York,” said Jacobs. “The package we are announcing will help ensure that New Yorkers have a strong supply of rent-regulated housing in the future and that tenants are protected.”

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 – 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 – 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.

~ A.2459-A -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 – 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 -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 – 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 – 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 – 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.

“This effort is part of my continuing commitment to our working families and their need for quality affordable housing in the communities they call their own,” said Ms. Jacobs. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues today in our ongoing effort to provide the affordable housing our communities need and the protections they deserve.”