Crucial housing laws to expire as state legislature negotiations continue

Hunters Point living space
THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Laws that keep rents regulated for millions of residents in the city and help build more affordable housing will expire at midnight Monday unless state legislators reach an agreement to extend or reform them.

State politicians could extend the deadline to Wednesday — when this year’s legislative session comes to an end — giving them time to work on more comprehensive reforms.

One of the laws provide guidelines in rent control and stabilized apartments throughout the city, and many fear without them hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units around in the city will be lost.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who sent a proposal to the state legislature last month, has urged members of the Assembly and Senate to come to an agreement to protect renters in the city.

“This is just unacceptable,” he said, according to The New York Times. “There are over two million New Yorkers right now who woke up this morning not knowing what was going to happen to their future because Albany is not acting.”

De Blasio’s proposal would stop landlords from deregulating vacant apartments when rents go above $2,500. The proposal also seeks to remove the allowance that landlords can raise rents on vacant apartments by 20 percent and end permanent rent hikes when landlords maintain or improve apartments.

Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that they should avoid “mayhem” and not let the law expire. There is a belief that landlords could threaten rent hikes or evictions while the state works on reforming the law, but Cuomo and de Blasio has warned property owners against this.

Public Advocate Letitia James has set up a hotline at 212-669-7250 to field questions to assist rent regulated tenants who have questions or need legal help in the event that the rent laws temporarily expire.

Last week, Cuomo promised to call state legislatures beyond the end of their session until they worked out a deal, according to published reports.

The state Assembly has introduced a bill that will extend current protections until Wednesday, while they look for a more permanent solution.

Also on the table for Monday is the 421-a tax abatement, which grants developers tax breaks in exchange more affordable housing. Critics have called for reforms to this law because many critics of the program say it current allows developers to build more market-rate housing.

De Blasio revealed a proposal that will revitalize the program to and give developers 35 years of tax breaks instead of 25, but with the trade-off that projects must include 25 to 30 percent affordable housing. It also suggests a mansion tax for condos or co-ops valued at more than $1.75 million.

Reportedly, Cuomo supports a short-term extension and a revamp of the program over a straight extension of the current plan.

“I would not want to see the program expire, because then you have no construction, so, depending,” Cuomo told the New York Observer. “But on these facts, I would favor a short-term extension, so you still have the pressure on people to get a new agreement done, but you don’t actually stop producing affordable housing.”