The tenant movement won big at the end of NY State’s legislative session for 2019. State legislators and Gov. Cuomo approved bills that will safeguard affordable housing in the city and increase renters’ rights and security.
This was no overnight victory. It’s a direct result after decades of tenants and working-class New Yorkers united for change. The steady persistence, especially during the last 18 months, was evidenced by fifteen local rallies and five trips to Albany, mobilized by St. Nicks Alliance and United Neighbors Organization. Advocacy closed many disastrous loopholes in the rent laws and expanded protections of tenants before, during, and after eviction. Plus thousands of rent stabilized apartments were preserved. Most renters in the state of New York will benefit in some way from these changes.
There was a bit of a twist when in the final hours of the session the law enabled a boomerang of bad potential concerning the state’s Affordable New York program, which incentivizes developers to include affordable units in their market rate buildings. Under the new law all units, including the market rate ones would have future rent increases dictated by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board. This would discourage deveSenlopers from including affordable housing in their buildings.
The Real Estate lobbies apparently didn’t use this argument in their attempts to sway legislators to vote against the bills. A correction allowing management to apply free-will increases to their market-rate units was drafted by Senator Brian Kavanagh.
Sen. Kavanagh said, “I want to emphasize that we had a lot of conversations with the real estate industry. We didn’t agree with their position, but they were not shut out from the conversation. I don’t believe anyone flagged this issue before the bill was printed.”
The new rent laws have enforced protections to stabilized tenants but they have also protected all renters. Some of the boons for all tenants are: deposits are limited to one month; no more blacklist as a retaliation for tenants who stood up for their rights; evictions can be delayed for up to 1 year (instead of 6 months) if relocation to a similar dwelling in the same area hasn’t occurred after a sound search, and courts will take into consideration the holistic effect (health, school rezoning, etc.) an eviction will have on those being evicted; and the new rent regulations are permanent.
In addition, as usual in late June the NYC Rent Guidelines Board set the rate regulated rents would go up. It approved a 1.5% increase for 1-year leases and a 2.5% increase for 2-year leases. This is the same rate increase that was approved last year. However, tenants and landlords were both unhappy with this decision. Tenants were hoping for a return to the rent frozen years of 2016 and 2017, and they came out to protest the increase. The Rent Stabilization Board, who represents landlords, complained that according to their data building operating costs went up 21% plus the increase in property taxes place a hardship on owners when rent increases are limited.