11122019uto
Last updatepon, 11 nov 2019 5pm

New York

How to reform rent regulations: Mayor de Blasio outlines his priorities for the Legislature in Albany

Twenty-five years ago, the landlord lobby started dismantling the rent laws that protect tenants. Since then, they’ve pulled 290,000 apartments out of the protection of rent laws

By BILL DE BLASIO

More than 2 million New Yorkers live in rent-stabilized apartments protected by law.

It should be the ultimate shield against fast-rising rents and displacement. But every New Yorker knows that’s not the case.

Rent-stabilized tenants face harassment. They face illegal evictions. They’re confronted with ceaseless “buy-out” offers that promise a quick buck if they give up their homes.

Twenty-five years ago, the landlord lobby started dismantling the rent laws that protect tenants. Since then, they’ve pulled 290,000 apartments out of the protection of rent laws.

In the next four weeks, we have a chance to turn the tide.

For the first time in a generation, a fully Democratic state Legislature will have a chance to fix our broken rent laws. Now is the time to commit ourselves to a single goal: not one more apartment lost.

Since 2014, our administration has built and protected affordable housing faster than any in history. We’ve guaranteed lawyers to tenants fighting harassment and eviction, and sent eviction rates plummeting.

But we need real reform in Albany to stop the bleeding of thousands of apartments every year.

Here’s an example of what’s wrong with our current laws: Up in Washington Heights, a two-bedroom apartment is up for lease. The rent? $1,250 per month.

It’s rent-stabilized. It’s affordable. But it won’t be either for much longer.

The landlord will use loopholes — all legal — to flip that apartment to market-rate.

A tenant moves out? Add $300 to the rent. Churn through two tenants in as many years? Add another almost $300.

Go all out spending thousands on high-end appliances and fixtures? Within two years, the landlord could add another $1,200 or more to that apartment’s permanent rent.

And by then, the landlord has hit the magic number. Because after gaming the system with just two rapid vacancies, they’ve driven the rent past $2,775 — the threshold that lets them flip that apartment to market-rate and charge whatever they want.

Every step of it is legal. And every step is disastrous for this city and our working families.

Here’s how we end that abuse, once and for all:

Eliminate the vacancy and longevity bonuses. No more hiking the rent when tenants move out. No more perverse incentives for landlords to turn out longtime tenants.

Eliminate vacancy decontrol. No more $2,775 threshold that lets landlords flip apartments to market. We can’t afford to lose a single rent-stabilized apartment from here on out.

No more permanent rent hikes from apartment and building improvements. We want to encourage landlords to invest in and improve their buildings for tenants without permanent increases in rent.

End preferential rent abuse. Landlords often lease apartments below their legal rent with the sole objective of hiking rent dramatically after a year to push the tenant out. We need to end the deception and abuse.

This is how we keep low-cost apartments that are affordable today affordable for the next generation.

But what about all the New Yorkers — more than 2 million people — who rent in unregulated buildings? It’s time they have real protections, too.

It’s time for Albany to add new safeguards to shield these tenants from eviction without good cause, and from massive rent shocks that no tenant could ever afford. It has to be done right, but there’s a smart way we can guarantee these new rights.

For 25 years, the landlord lobby has had the upper hand writing these rent laws.

Now, we have a chance to do right by tenants and close the loopholes landlords have exploited. People’s homes and security are on the line.

There’s no higher priority for the days left this session in Albany. I’m ready to fight alongside tenants, shoulder to shoulder, to get this done once and for all.

Now is the time to fight like the future of our city is at stake — because it is.

De Blasio is mayor of New York City.

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