Four more years for city rent regulations under state-brokered deal

Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor/Kevin P. Coughlin

Albany’s “three men in the room” settled the rent regulation battle, among other grievances, on Tuesday.

The tentative deal that Governor Andrew Cuomo, state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced on Tuesday extends and reforms existing rent regulations affecting New York City by four years. It also extends the 421-a tax credit for residential developers at least six months, with a long-term extension dependent on a living wage agreement between developers and labor unions.

The legislative “framework,” as Cuomo called it, also includes a one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City public schools; a $250 million allocation to non-public schools in New York State to defray state-mandated expenses, in lieu of proposed education tax credits for parents; the addition of 50 new charter schools in New York City; and extending the property tax cap for upstate and Long Island residents.

Flanagan and Heastie were tasked with hammering out the final specifics of the legislative package with their respective conferences. Their sessions having ended last week, state lawmakers will be called back to Albany to vote on the finalized agreement.

“This is a very robust agreement. It is a comprehensive agreement. It includes continued education reforms. It cuts taxes and it is an unprecedented package that protects tenants,” Cuomo said.

The extended and reformed rent regulations include raising the vacancy decontrol threshold from the current $2,500 monthly rate. When a rent-regulated apartment becomes vacant, landlords can increase the rent up to 20 percent but the monthly rent must be below the threshold. The deal also limits the amount by which landlords may increase a tenant’s rent for capital improvements to a building.

The regulations will be retroactive to June 15, when rent laws officially expired; state lawmakers had passed a five-day extension to continue the existing laws as they worked on a new deal.

But the framework falls far short of rent regulation reforms that Mayor Bill de Blasio and tenants’ advocates called for in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s agreement. De Blasio had called for the vacancy decontrol threshold to be completely eliminated and for other reforms to make rents more affordable.

“The announced rent laws deal demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s inability to keep his word to tenants to whom he promised stronger rental protections,” said Gladys Puglla of the group Make the Road New York. “Every day, New York City is losing affordable units. … Governor Cuomo promised to strengthen the rent laws. Instead, he and the Republican leadership in the state Senate did the bidding of the landlords and real estate developers by extending current failed policies, with only minor modifications, which will reportedly lose our city approximately 100,000 affordable units over the next four years.”


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