Council Speaker to Urge Albany to Pass Tougher Rent Regulations

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will call on her colleagues in the State Legislature tomorrow to pass strengthened rent regulations, the latest in a series of pushes from the Council on the issue.

“We must extend and strengthen New York City’s rent regulation laws to protect tenants and to keep our City affordable for all those who live here,” Speaker Mark-Viverito said in a statement to the Observer. “The Council will continue to fight to preserve and increase affordability in our neighborhoods and we urge the State Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign the Assembly’s legislation.”

Ms. Mark-Viverito will introduce and call a vote tomorrow on a resolution urging Albany to pass the Assembly’s bill.

Rent regulation is among the many outstanding issues facing Albany at the end of the legislative session this month, and it is one that has a tremendous impact on New York City—2.5 million city residents live in rent regulated housing. The rent laws governing stabilized and regulated apartments are set to expire, but Ms. Mark-Viverito and others are asking for the laws to be beefed up rather than just renewed.

Under current law, an apartment can be deregulated if the rent hits $2,500 a month and a tenant leaves, or if the tenant earns more than $200,000 two years in a row. The Assembly legislation Ms. Mark-Viverito’s legislation urges passage of would increase the rent amount for vacancy deregulation to $3,500, and the amount of income for high-earning deregulation to $225,000.

The legislation would also make charges for capital improvements passed on to tenants temporary, rather than permanent, and would decrease the “vacancy bonus,” which lets owners increase the rent by 20 percent every time a unit is vacated. The Assembly bill would reduce the bonus to 7.5 percent.

While the resolution calls on the Legislature to pass the bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it, the Council has no power to amend state rent laws itself. That has not stopped the Council from making plenty of noise about it—Ms. Mark-Viverito recently traveled to Albany to lobby on the matter, and some of her Council colleagues were arrested protesting outside Mr. Cuomo’s office in favor of strengthened rent regulations. Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, held a rally on rent regulations in Harlem Saturday.

But despite plenty of urging from the city, it’s still entirely unclear what action, if any, Albany will take on rent regulation before the end of the session on June 17.

Mr. Cuomo has floated hiking the vacancy deregulation threshold to $2,700, below the Assembly bill and short of the total elimination of the practice Mr. de Blasio has called for. While the Assembly has been supportive of beefing up rent laws, it is a harder sell with Republican-run State Senate, and perhaps with Mr. Cuomo, though the governor has said he’s committed to tougher laws to stop the loss of affordable housing.

And even relations between city pols and the supportive Assembly aren’t perfect—the Daily News this week quoted several Democratic Assembly members knocking the mayor on his performance in Albany.

“I feel great about my relationship with the Assembly, and it has been a very strong relationship of mutual respect,” Mr. de Blasio told the Observer yesterday at an unrelated press conference. “Honestly, with Speaker [Carl] Heastie, and I think with the overwhelming majority of the Assembly members – I’m sure there’s going to be some disagreements – that’s normal. But in general, we’ve shared a lot of the same values.”

Rent regulation is only one of the issues remaining on Albany’s agenda: the State Legislature has yet to renew mayoral control or the 421a real estate tax credit, two other issues crucial to New York City and Mr. de Blasio’s agenda.

Council Speaker to Urge Albany to Pass Tougher Rent Regulations