ALBANY RENT REG BATTLE BEGINS WITH VITO (LOPEZ) OVERRIDE

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Albany Republicans will soon introduce two bills outlining their plan to overturn rent caps and eviction protections for the richest and poorest New York City tenants, City Limits has learned.

GOP leaders in the State Senate expect to release their plan in response to last week’s introduction of a Democratic bill calling for the permanent extension of rent control and rent stabilization. The state’s rent regulation laws are due to expire on June 15.

One Republican bill, expected to be introduced in two weeks, would force tenants to make a deposit on unpaid rent before they could proceed with housing court cases against their landlords. A second measure, to come later, will reportedly extend luxury decontrol, proposing the elimination of rent regulations for tenants who earn at least $100,000 a year.

The already-released Democratic Party bill, produced by Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the Brooklynite who chairs the Assembly’s housing committee, would give tenants permanent title to their rent-regulated apartments without the need for lease renewals. It also seeks to limit rent hikes when landlords perform major repairs. The bill, co-sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is expected to pass the Assembly, but has virtually no chance of gaining Senate approval.

GOP sources told City Limits that Senate Majority Leader Jospeh Bruno still plans to propose a measure that will call for elimination of all rent regulation. But Lopez predicted Senate Republicans will push primarily for the luxury decontrol plan and the rent deposit bill.

The Assembly housing chief said he opposes the rent deposit measure but said that some fellow Democrats are increasingly open to the idea. He said he is researching a plan to address landlord complaints that tenants drag out court cases to avoid paying rent. Lopez added: “What we need to do is increase the number of housing court judges, appoint like 50 new housing court judges so that most cases could be resolved in a month…. We need to come up with a plan that eliminates the need for rent deposits.”

“If they are not talking about deposit of rent, our ears are open,” said Billy Easton of the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition, one of the largest pro-tenant groups.