Fixing the rent laws

On Tuesday afternoon, a “framework” deal was reportedly reached under which rent regulations for a million New York City apartments would be renewed for four years.

According to reports, however, the deal doesn’t repeal vacancy decontrol, the biggest threat by far to the entire rent-controlled and stabilized system. There appear to be minor modifications in the deal for documenting major capital improvements (M.C.I.’s), which landlords regularly use to permanently push up rents.
Currently, regulated apartments renting for $2,000 or more per month can be decontrolled — removed from rent regulation — when they become vacant. The new vacancy-decontrol cap would be $2,500 a month, but with no provision for inflationary increases. The reported agreement would also raise the household income threshold for those in the program to $200,000, up from the current $175,000.

These increases in vacancy decontrol caps — especially raising the threshold rent — are a good step. The way rents keep going up, many more rent-regulated tenants will soon be paying $2,000 or more — which, in many Manhattan neighborhoods, is actually considered below market-rate rent. On the other hand, $200,000 is, admittedly, a pretty high income.

Basically, Democrats had been looking to strengthen and expand rent protections, while Republicans wanted to simply extend the current laws with no changes. But the rent laws do need to be strengthened; more specifically, certain aspects need to be rolled back.

M.C.I.’s, for example, must be reined in. There’s no reason why tenants should have to keep paying for building improvements and repairs ad infinitum — in the form of permanent rent hikes — even after the work’s cost has long since been paid off.

Beyond the rent laws themselves, it’s time for the city Rent Guidelines Board, for once, to show more sensitivity to tenants’ needs. Every year, the R.G.B., like a rubber stamp, votes to jack up rents, as landlords, following script, complain about rising heating oil costs, property taxes, and other charges. Meanwhile, though, tenants’ wages simply aren’t keeping pace with these annually rising rents. It makes surviving in this city more and more difficult for people who have been here for years, if not their whole lives, and who have been contributing their hard-earned tax dollars to this great city. Is the idea now to make Manhattan Island one huge pied-à-terre for wealthy foreigners?

Anyone can see that this is not a fair equation, and is simply pushing out the middle class — the backbone of the city.

The fact is that the interest rates that landlords pay to finance their real estate investments have eased quite considerably in the past few years, undercutting landlords’ annual chorus of hardship claims.

More to the point, the R.G.B. is too heavily weighted toward the landlords and needs more tenant representatives. Let this be the year that the R.G.B. shows some backbone and limits rent increases.

It’s clear that the recent deal fell short in many key areas. Its most glaring shortcoming is that it has left in place the mechanism of vacancy decontrol, which means that the affordable housing stock will continue to erode. But it at least extended and in some areas strengthened the law, rather than extend it and weaken it as it did in the past.

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4 Responses to Fixing the rent laws

  1. Pingback: Fixing the rent laws | Jill Sloane

  2. The $200,000 threshold is AGI, which means your actual gross income could easily exceed $300,000.u00a0 Of course,u00a0 if your rent is below $2500 you'll have nothing to worry about anyway.u00a0 Multi-millionaires with seven-figure incomes will be able to keep their RS apartment provided its under $2500/month.nnDoes that make sense to anyone?

    • none of it makes sense..helpless new yorkers looking to be supported by what else is new??nI live in a rent stabilized apartment and the only thing that has made it finally become a nice place is the arrival of the market rent tenants..they are smarter,kinder,more polite,quieter,busier,tip the super,hold doors for us older folks..and that is just a partial i miss the junkies,dopers,families of 6 who lived in one bedroom apartments with loud radios blaring in the building in which i live…good riddance to bad rubbish.nThese market rent people have made my life a better one….the halls are beautiful,broken things are fixed with a single call to the rental agent, buzzer systems look and sound good, we now have a laundry room!nWould any of this be done with the old timers with dimentia who routinely flooded the premises because they forgot to turn off the bath…Do i miss the u00a0my doors being kicked in by junkies that had access to the building because of the broken front doors???nHello new world! 31 units in the building and 10 of us are still under rent stabilization and all of us are in agreement that vacancy decontrol changed our life for the better.I feel that there should be means testing because a few of the old stabilized folks have fancy cars and out of town retreats for the summer that fair???n

  3. This editorial is garbage. u00a0We must eliminate rent stabilization. u00a0There are 19 million New Yorkers who survive just fine without rent stabilization. u00a0Why do the other million think they are so special that they get favored status? u00a0The greed of these stabilized renters disgusts me. u00a0Why does my millionaire neighbor get to pay 1/3rd of what I pay? u00a0I have tens of thousands of student debt (ie my net worth is negative) yet this stupid system forces me to pay 3 times what my neighbor pays. u00a0Why does she get a cheap rent? u00a0She should pay market rate just like I do. u00a0Downtown is full of market rate renters and we are treated unfairly by these rules. u00a0Enough is enough. u00a0End stabilization now.

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