Whatever the outcome of the charade in Albany over extending rent regulations for 2 million New York City residents, it is outrageous that the laws were allowed to expire.
The June 15 deadline was not a surprise. Lawmakers had months to work out a deal before letting the regulations lapse. Both Mayor Bill de Blasio, a passionate advocate for affordable housing, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo voiced support for extending the laws governing rent-stabilized apartments, although their plans for protecting renters differed as always.
And despite the political dance in the capitol, the bottom line was that most New Yorkers expected the rent laws to be saved once again. The only question was what—if any—new safeguards would be put in place to limit the steady erosion of the city’s rent-stabilized stock of apartments.
As the negotiations continued in Albany, the silence from Queens lawmakers was deafening. Borough President Melinda Katz called for an outright freeze or rollback in rents after the rent board held a hearing in Queens this week. But most other elected officials were mum on the talks to determine the rents for about 135,000 rent-stabilized apartments in Queens—or nearly 300,000 residents.
It was left up to the mayor, city comptroller and state attorney general to assure tenants that they were still protected under their current leases. Although Cuomo warned landlords not to take advantage of the regulation lapse, he came under criticism from some tenant groups for not pressuring the GOP-controlled Senate to back stronger protections.
At issue is vacancy decontrol, which allows the rent on a stabilized apartment to rise 20 percent each time a tenant leaves up to the $2,500 mark, when it goes to market rate. With about 44 percent of Queens residents paying half of their income on rent, based on a recent Furman Institute survey, the push to preserve affordable housing became more critical.
The Senate passed a law this week that would extend existing rent regulations eight years, require income verification for stabilized renters and force them to make these units their primary residence.
Assembly Democrats fiercely opposed the Senate version.
The impasse prompted some Queens tenants to ask why Albany was making the rules for rent laws that primarily affect New York City residents and few others in the state.
There are more renters in the city than owners. It’s time for New Yorkers to demand home rule so that we can set our own rent policy and free ourselves from Albany’s shenanigans.