The tail end of June was filled with anticipation for renters, housing advocates, landlords, and city officials. First the rent regulation law was finally agreed upon in the state legislature. Then the New York City Rent Guidelines Board vote offered: a rent freeze for tenants signing new or renewal 1-year leases this year beginning Oct. 1 and a 2% increase for those signing 2-year leases. This was a landmark decision, as it was the first rent-freeze in the 46-year history of the board. However, this was a disappointment to affordable housing advocates who were pushing for a rent rollback. It also was an obvious disappointment to building owners who say this will stymie development as property taxes and utility bills are on the rise: a board report showed building operating costs had risen by 5.7%.
The Tenants’ Forum, held on June 30th at Greenpoint’s Polish National Home, turned out to be exceptionally timely. Councilman Stephen Levin and other speakers enlightened their audience on a variety of their rights as tenants, and to ensure information was communicated clearly headphones were available with Spanish and Polish translations. Also on hand to distribute information on programming and contacts that could be of assistance were: NYC Housing Preservation and Development, NY State Homes and Community Renewal, Fair Housing NYC, NYC Commission on Human Rights, and St. Nicks Alliance (one of the sponsors of the forum).
A few weeks after the Tenants Forum, the rent law was seen in a new light that was hopeful for renters. In mid-July, lawyers for tenants discovered some wording in the recently signed law that might make it even more tenant-friendly. The wording regards the interpretation of the word ‘was’.
It would appear to some that the Rent Act of 2015 would allow apartments to be deregulated only if the new $2,700 limit was reached by the previous tenant. So even if the current/new renter paid more than $2700 the apartment would be under regulation until this tenant moved.
Those representing landlords say this new take on the law is poppycock as they believe legislators did not intend this change.
In the end this battle over the word ‘was’ could be something for the courts to decide.
The loss of affordable apartments is a reality. It is calculated that 50,000 rent-stabilized units were lost in the past eight years. Most of these losses were in the Manhattan neighborhoods of the East Village and the Lower and Upper East Sides. However, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick are cited among those being sites experiencing increases in deregulation.