Queens officials celebrate ‘historic’ deal on rent regulations in victory for tenant’s rights movement

Courtesy of The Legal Aid Society

Lawmakers in Albany came to an agreement late Tuesday on a wide-ranging package of tenant protection legislation that so many Queens residents have been demanding for years. The measures address a wide variety of tenant issues that will affect nearly 2.5 million people across the city.

The legislation will eliminate vacancy decontrol and the vacancy bonus, extend preferential rents for the duration of a tenancy, dramatically reform MCIs and IAIs, and extend tenant safeguards statewide, among other changes. State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris of Astoria said the legislation provides the strongest tenant protections in New York state history.

“After years of displacement caused by rent laws that worked against them, New York’s tenants finally have a seat at the table thanks to a new Senate that is working with our Assembly partners to eagerly champion housing affordability,” Gianaris said. “This sweeping legislation provides the strongest protections since the rent laws were enacted decades ago and I am proud to have worked with incredible grassroots organizers to deliver this historic progress.”

Groups like the Jackson Heights-based Make the Road New York.

“This deal marks a major victory for tenants across New York, who have fought for many years to strengthen protections for renters and remain in their homes,” MTRNY Co-Executive Director Javier H. Valdés said. “With provisions like ending the vacancy bonus, ending vacancy decontrol and closing the preferential rent loophole, the agreement between the Senate and the Assembly, when signed into law, will strip away incentives for landlords to evict rent-regulated tenants.”

However, the deal left out a series of “good cause” eviction protections that had been pushed by tenant groups.

“The was the best deal possible this year in Albany, where real estate barons have held power for decades, and marks the growing muscle of the statewide tenant movement,” Valdés said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the rent regulation bills hailed the advocacy groups.

“Tenants have pounded on Albany’s door for decades for the protections they deserve. We’ve stood with them, fought for them tooth-and-nail, and now the wait is finally over,” de Blasio said. “This is a remarkable achievement that will halt displacement, harassment and unjust evictions, and keep working families in the homes they love. Combined with the city’s rapid pace of building and protecting affordable homes, these reforms mean we can go from just holding the line to actually growing the number of apartments New Yorkers can afford.”

Comptroller Scott Stringer said the laws will make a tangible difference in the lives of New Yorkers.

“With this landmark rent package, we’re taking a massive step forward,” Stringer said. “These new reforms will turn the tide, protect New Yorkers, preserve affordable housing, and strengthen and expand protections across our state. These critical bills will keep New Yorkers in their homes, off the streets and out of the shelter system.”

The real estate industry disagrees and called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to reject the deal. Taxpayers for an Affordable New York, a coalition of property owners fighting for responsible rent reforms released a terse statement.

“This legislation fails to address the city’s housing crisis and will lead to disinvestment in the city’s private sector rental stock cosigning hundreds of thousands of rent-regulated tenants to living in buildings that are likely to fall into disrepair,” the coalition said. “This legislation will not create a single new affordable housing unit, improve the vacancy rate or improve enforcement against the few dishonest landlords who tend to dominate the headlines. It is now up to the governor to reject this deal in favor of responsible rent reform that protects tenants, property owners, building contractors and our communities.”

Cuomo said he would sign the package of bills if the legislation passes it. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the reforms give New Yorkers the strongest tenant protections in history just days before the existing rent laws were set to expire.

“For too long, power has been tilted in favor of landlords and these measures finally restore equity and extends protections to tenants across the state,” they said in a joint statement. “These reforms will pass both legislative houses and we are hopeful that the governor will sign them into law. It is the right thing to do. None of these historic rent protections would be possible without the fact that New York has a united Democratic Legislature. Our appreciation also goes to the tenant advocacy groups and activists that fought so hard to make this possible.”

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