Dozens of elected officials gathered at City Hall today in support of passing various sweeping housing reforms when the Legislature convenes next year in Albany. Legislators were also flanked by advocates from the Housing Justice for All campaign, tenants, and other stakeholders in support of reform.
Key loopholes the State Legislators vowed to close include preferential rent and major capital improvements, which saddle tenants with sudden and permanent rent increases; individual apartment increases and the vacancy bonus, which encourage tenant harassment; and vacancy decontrol, which has led to the loss of over hundred thousand rent regulated apartments in the last 10 years.
This year, legislators are also working to pass good cause eviction, which would protect millions of tenants across the state who currently lack any basic tenant protections. Additionally, legislators have called for the expansion of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act to cover the entire state.
“For decades, landlords across New York State have seen their profits explode because of our broken rent laws that exploit poor tenants and deplete local affordable housing. This must end,” said Judith Goldiner, Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “These reforms have been passed over for decades and we’re looking forward to Albany finally advancing them next year when the Legislature convenes. Low-income tenants across the state cannot wait any longer.
“Strengthening tenant protections in 2019 is the single largest factor determining whether New York will continue to be affordable for low and moderate income New Yorkers, and seniors like me who are on fixed incomes but do not qualify for SCRIE,” said Veronica Glasgow, a tenant leader with Tenants & Neighbors and Harlem resident. “Most New Yorkers are a paycheck away from homelessness. As a retired social services director, I have seen firsthand what homelessness does to children and families. This year we must close the loopholes in the rent laws and extend Universal Rent Control to all. This campaign with tenants across the state, and our allies in the Assembly and the Senate begins now, and will have great implications for generations of New Yorkers.”
BACKGROUND: For many years, the real-estate industry has controlled politics in Albany, to the detriment of millions of tenants across the State. The results: 89,000 people are homeless, and New York has lost hundreds of thousands of affordable rental apartments. The rental housing crisis is spreading across the State. Just last month, tenants and allies of the statewide campaign marched in lower Manhattan demanding an end to landlord dominance in Albany - and to demand that Governor Cuomo and the state legislature pass a universal rent control package in the next legislative session that will protect all tenants across the state.
Housing advocates and tenants involved in the statewide Housing Justice for All campaign have released a comprehensive universal rent control legislative package that includes closing all loopholes in current rent regulations, and expanding protections against evictions across the entire state. They are pushing for passage of the universal rent control package before the rent laws expire in June 2019.
Those in attendance included Senators Jessica Ramos, Julia Salazar, Zellnor Myrie, Brian Kavanagh, Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger, Robert Jackson; Assemblymembers Diana Richardson, Rodnyse Bichotte, Carmen de la Rosa, Jo Anne Simon, Maritza Davila, Linda Rosenthal, Harvey Epstein, Victor Pichardo, and others; Affordable housing advocates, tenants, homeless New Yorkers, members and leaders of Housing Justice for All.
“Too many tenants are priced out of their homes because of laws that put a landlord's bottom line before the well-being of tenants,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “All New Yorkers deserve high quality, affordable homes and I look forward to supporting an agenda that deals with the crisis affecting tenants."
“New York families have struggled for too long with the increasing lack of affordable in our city and our state. Loopholes in New York's rent regulation laws have made it all too easy for unscrupulous building owners to dramatically increase rents, harass tenants, illegally deregulate units, and exacerbate the affordable housing crisis. But this year, with Democrats finally in control of the State Senate, I am confident that we can begin to change that narrative. With the help of tireless advocates across the state, the time has come to strengthen the rights of rent regulated tenants and create new anti-eviction protections for tenants in market rate units as well,” said Senator Liz Krueger.
“For too long, the rent stabilization system has been rigged against tenants. I’m looking forward to being part of a new Senate Democratic majority that will fight to strengthen and reform the rent laws in Albany and finally provide security to over 1 million New Yorkers who rely on rent regulations to protect their affordable housing,” said Senator Brad Hoylman.
“We are made strong by our diversity. Preserving affordable housing, strengthening rent laws and protecting tenants from harassment and evictions are critical to promoting this diversity by ensuring seniors who built their neighborhoods can stay here, young people can start here and the middle class can prosper. We need to ban the ‘eviction bonus,’ repeal vacancy decontrol, end the preferential rent loophole and pass stronger and expanded tenant protections for millions of families across the state and that’s what I’ll work to do,” said Senator-Elect Robert Jackson.
“Make no mistake, the housing emergency in this state is the defining crisis of this generation. Every facet of an individual’s life is impacted by the status of their housing and in New York, tenants’ lives have come at the expense of unscrupulous and greedy landlords. In the next legislative session, tenants from all over the state will fight back,” said Senator-Elect Zellnor Myrie. “As a lifelong rent-stabilized tenant, I look forward to fighting alongside tenant leaders next year to close loopholes and reform laws that have systematically pushed tenants out of their homes all over the state. We will start this fight on Day 1 of the legislative session.”
“We need to finally repeal and replace the deregulatory rent laws that put tenants throughout New York state at the mercy of predatory developers and abusive landlords. We’ve long seen the harmful impact of the lack of rent regulation in our North Brooklyn neighborhoods, and now we are seeing the negative impact in communities across the state as well,” said Senator-Elect Julia Salazar. “It’s time to end vacancy decontrol and vacancy bonuses; to fight the MCI-induced rent increases that threaten to displace working families; and to close the preferential rent loophole that has allowed big real estate to exploit tenants. Every tenant in New York must be legally protected from the risk of displacement and homelessness. This is what it means to demand universal rent control. Housing is a human right, and we cannot accept anything less than rent laws that demonstrate that.”
“As the Assemblywoman for the 43rd District in Central Brooklyn, I represent one of the most rapidly gentrifying parts of New York City. I am witnessing firsthand how my constituents are being pushed out of their homes by wealthy real estate. I have never stood with the real estate industry, and I have always stood with tenants. I am thrilled to work with my colleagues in the Assembly and the new State Senate to finally pass stronger rent laws, expand them to tenants in small buildings and across New York State.” said Assembly Member Diana Richardson.
“In the 76th District- Upper East Side, Yorkville and Roosevelt Island, we have a displacement crisis which has reached its breaking point with 115 families being evicted by court marshals last year alone, and losing 30 percent of rent stabilized housing stock since 2007. Keeping tenants in their homes, and maintaining affordable units in our community is my top priority. We host a Tuesday Legal Housing Clinic serving hundreds of constituents who are fearful of being displaced. This session, I commit to renew an strengthen the rent laws, eliminate the practice of vacancy decontrol, preferential rents and Major Capital Improvement increases that can lead to displacement, broaden protections for all renters, and reconsider the calculation for rent controlled tenants,” said Assembly Member Rebecca A. Seawright.
"I have carried, along with the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands of tenants, the legislation to repeal vacancy deregulation and preserve rent control for nearly a decade. The opportunity we have so long been waiting for, though, has finally arrived, and I could not be more optimistic,” said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal. “The stranglehold that landlords and big real estate have had on Albany has loosened, and together we will ensure that our rallying cry becomes reality: 2019 Is the Year of the Tenant.” I
“Stronger rent laws and tenant protections are essential to our future. They are necessary to preserve affordable housing, help people remain in their homes, and promote stable, diverse communities. The law should be on the side of ordinary New Yorkers, not on the side of callous or greedy landlords. We should not simply extend the rent laws – we must strengthen them, and offer that protection to communities across the state,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried.
“Housing is a human right, and we must tackle the economic inequality that prevents us from ensuring that every New Yorker has a home” said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein. “Nearly half of the state's population is considered rent burdened, with 30 percent or more of their income going towards rent. As we enter the new legislative session, it is imperative that we prioritize bills that will address housing insecurity. We need to close loopholes that drive up rents, pass just-cause eviction, and increase the penalties against predatory landlords. I am proud to stand with tenants and organizers, who understand the urgency of this better than anyone. I look forward to working with these movements to advance progressive housing legislation in the new year."
“We have a life threatening housing crisis in New York City, that is our moral duty to immediately solve. I stand with tenants, community leaders, and colleagues in government, in pledging to fight to close ALL rent loopholes that continue to push people out of their homes. We need to expand these protections throughout the state, especially just-cause evictions to make sure all tenants possess most basic tenant protections. The time for half measures are over,” said Assembly Member Brian Barnwell.
“We are in the midst of a housing crisis in New York, and thousands of hard-working people have been displaced from their homes. As the rental protections sunset this year, we must do everything we can to protect tenants and pass meaningful rent regulation reforms. I applaud the robust proposals set forth by the Housing Justice for All Campaign and housing advocates, and look forward to working with them on behalf of New York tenants this legislative session,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon.
“I've lived in Crown Heights for 17 years and now my landlord -- Treetop Development -- is using MCIs to raise our rents more than we can afford,” said Vaughn Armor, member of new York Communities for Change. “I refuse to stand by and let these wicked landlords raise the rent on low-income seniors who have been here for 30 years; we need Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to eliminate MCIs and expand tenant protections statewide so we can afford to stay in our homes."
"The result of Governor Cuomo's marriage to real estate has led to weakened rent laws, a major homelessness crisis and a city and state that is becoming unrecognizable" says Leticia Pazmino, tenant leader of Make the Road New York. "In 2019 with a new Democratic Senate, we must fight like hell to ensure that every tenant, across every part of the state, has access to strong tenant protections so that our communities don't become playgrounds for the rich."
“New York State’s rent law loopholes are legalized fraud. An audit conducted by the New York State government of 1100 landlord found that over 40% of them were illegally overcharging tenants in rent. This should come as no surprise, as none of this is by accident and all of it is by design. Cheaters, however, should not be allowed to prosper in a moral and just society. And that is why it is imperative for Albany to act, and to act with great resolve and precision, to restore affordable housing and the public’s trust in government,” said Aaron Carr, Founder and Executive Director of Housing Rights Initiative.
“Zara Realty’s MCI rent increases of $350.00 to $600.00 a month are forcing us out of our homes and decimating the community of Jamaica Queens. Elected representatives— you can’t unhear this statement of fact. Don’t look away. Will you put a stop to it, or are you complicit?,” said Robin Budnetz, Zara Tenants Coalition.
“A preferential lease utilizes the "bait and switch" tactic, a seemingly affordable apartment becomes unaffordable, if a tenant commits or participates in any act of which the landlord does not approve I.e calling 3-1-1, hp action or decrease in services filing. This practice was not good for purchasing a car, it's even worse for selecting an apartment,” said Beverly Newsome, President, Ebbets Field Tenants Organization.
"Weakened rent laws allowed powerful landlords to kick my family out of Bushwick where I grew up. Now I commute over an hour each way to and from high school every day. Youth like me need universal rent control because housing is a human right — we all deserve to live with dignity and respect and to be able to stay in our neighborhoods, no matter what." said Samairy Piña, Churches United for Fair Housing Youth Leader.
“Los inquilinos estamos pasando por situaciones precarias ya que las leyes de vivienda favorecen a los caseros. Por lo tanto queremos que se pasen leyes que beneficien a las inquilinas y que estas sean aplicadas. ¡No queremos sólo promesas, queremos hechos!" said Teresita Aguilar, United Neighborhood Organization en Norte de Brooklyn.