City rent regulations face new Albany test

City rent regulations face new Albany test
Sheldon Silver AP Photo/Mike Groll
By Philip Newman

Thousands of Queens apartments are under rent regulations, but state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) says renters live on a slippery slope because of what he calls loopholes that favor landlords.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents more than 25,000 landlords, has been fighting for decades in an effort to abolish the entire rent control system.

The trade group said Queens had 144,035 apartments under rent stabilization in 2010 and 5,500 under rent control. By comparison, Queens figures for 2006 showed there were 156,958 rent-stabilized apartments and more than 10,000 rent controlled units.

In any case, the law that provides both rent stabilization and rent controls for more than a million apartments citywide is due to expire June 15 without a vote extending it.

The Assembly has already passed a bill to extend and strengthen rent regulations. Although a similar bill has been introduced in the Republican-majority state Senate, passage appears unlikely in its present form. More negotiations are expected.

Silver, long an advocate for renters, said the present housing regulations have brought a wholesale removal of apartments from controls.

“Every year more than 10,000 rent-regulated apartments are lost because of loopholes in rent laws,” Silver said recently. “We must strengthen and extend these regulations to protect working families under siege by the real estate interests.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has spoken recently in favor of renewing the rent regulations, met last week with housing advocates and Democratic members of the state Legislature.

The Rent Stabilization Association said its goal is “to eliminate excessive regulation and maintain the economic viability of the rental housing market.”

The state Division of Housing & Community Renewal reported that in 2010 there were just over 1 million city apartments under rent control or rent stabilization.

“Over 2 million New Yorkers live in housing covered by rent stabilization and rent control, but every year thousands of rent-regulated apartments become deregulated — driving up rents and forcing working families out of New York City,” Silver said on his Assembly Web page.

The bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Assembly would abolish sections of rent regulations that critics say have taken hundreds of thousands of apartments out of control over the past decade.

Current law allows a landlord to remove an apartment from regulation when it becomes vacant if the legal rent exceeds $2,000 a month per month. It also allows occupied apartments to be removed if the legal rent exceeds $2,000 and if the tenant’s income exceeds $175,000 in two consecutive years.

The rent regulations go back to 1943 and 1946, during and following World War II, during an acute housing shortage.

If approved, the rent regulations would run until 2016.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or phone at 718-260-4536.

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