With the current rent regulation laws set to expire June 15, negotiations continue on how New York State might reform rent laws—if they renew them.
But advocates of rent regulation are growing restless.
A straight extension of the current laws, “would not be a victory for the tenants,” said Mary Tek, campaign manager for the Real Rent Reform Campaign (R3), a coalition directed by the staff of Tenants & Neighbors, a tenant advocacy group.
R3 has planned a “mass mobilization” to Albany on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, and is also prepared to take trips every day after the June 15 if rent regulation laws are not renewed, according to the organization’s blog.
Beyond the renewal of rent regulation laws, Tenants & Neighbors calls for stronger rent laws that will eliminate the “loopholes” that allow for landlords to get around rent regulation, said Maggie Russell-Ciardi, Executive Director of Tenants & Neighbors.
The top priority of R3 is a repeal of vacancy destabilization, created in the 1997 rent bill. This law deregulates units that have reached $2,000 a month in rent once it becomes vacant. This system can provide landlords with an incentive to displace tenants in order to deregulate a building one apartment at a time, Russell-Ciardi said.
Emily Goldstein, Subsidized Housing Organizer at Tenants & Neighbors, said that since the implementation of vacancy destabilization, tenants have reported feeling harassed by their landlord in an effort to encourage them to move out. The most common problems faced by rent-stabilized residents are a lack of heat and hot water in the winter, paired with an inability to get repairs, she said.
Approximately 300,000 units have been deregulated since the implementation of vacancy destabilization, Tek said.
Tenants & Neighbors also calls for a change in the laws surrounding Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increases. These permit a landlord to raise rent when a major investment is made in the building, like a new boiler or roof. Instead of a permanent rent increase, the organization hopes this system will be modified so the rent increase only lasts as long as it takes to cover the cost of the improvement.
Ideally, Tenants and Neighbors hopes to see the negotiations end before June 15th, so as not to put tenants in a position where their lease expires before they know whether or not their rent will continue to be regulated. This would ease the anxiety of regulated tenants such as seniors or those on a fixed income who many not be able to pay the rent if their unit were to become deregulated.
“I think that a lot fear out there,” Tek said. “Many tenants are anxious to see not just that the laws continue to exist, but are made more pro-tenant so that they can feel more at ease about future of rent-regulated apartments.”
Opponents of rent regulations say they distort the market by creating an artificially low price for housing that discourages the creation of new housing to meet demand. In an April open letter, Rent Stabilization Association president Joseph Strasburg wrote: “Any economist will tell you that, over the long term, such controls result in less supply and higher prices. That is precisely what has happened: Young people looking for apartments in New York see this every day when they end up paying two or three times more for apartments than do tenants in similar long-term regulated units.”