By Sabina Mollot
The Assembly will be fighting back against a push from the State Senate to defund the Tenant Protection Unit (TPU), Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh said this week.
The TPU is a division of the state housing agency, Homes and Community Renewal, along with others like the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.
And according to Kavanagh, the plan to strip the TPU of its funding was in the State Senate’s budget proposal.
However, the TPU, he noted, has been helpful to tenants in fighting landlords who’ve improperly deregulated properties by getting the units reregulated and getting back rent paid to tenants.
“Unfortunately, the Senate Republicans do not want the rent laws to be enforced,” said Kavanagh about the effort, which was first reported by the Daily News. “So they’re trying to remove the funding.”
The Assembly has already put forth its own budget proposal as has the governor, with both supporting the agency. But Kavanagh said since the governor and both houses have to support it, the Assembly is bracing for a fight.
“We’re going to fight this and we expect that they’re going to fight back,” he said.
The Senate’s Housing Chair Catherine Young, a Republican from upstate Olean, did not respond to a request for comment from T&V. However, according to the Daily News, she believes the TPU has been operating with a lack of transparency.
While the focus is still on the budget, as well as school reforms and ethics reforms, renewal or expiration of the Rent Stabilization Laws (the latter of which is not expected) is set to take place in June.
New Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said he considers rent regulation to be a priority although he hasn’t really gotten into detail about it. And while Kavanagh said he didn’t want to speak for Heastie on the details it was safe to say he meant strengthening and not just renewing the rent laws. Heastie’s Bronx district, Kavanagh pointed out, has seen its own share of problems with “venture capitals moving in” and buying up properties, only to try and displace rent regulated tenants.
Still, as always it will be an uphill battle for tenants in Albany with State Senate being the place where tenant-friendly legislation has consistently gone to die.
Tenants activists are hopeful that tax breaks the real industry is looking to get renewed such as 421-a and J-51 can be used in negotiations for expanded tenant protections, in particular vacancy decontrol.
As for what the odds of vacancy decontrol being signed into law actually are, Kavanagh said he didn’t know.
“It’s hard to gauge things,” he said. “It’s a matter of using what leverage you have. And it’s not just vacancy control. It’s MCIs, it’s high income decontrol. All of those ‘Roberts’ units in Stuyvesant Town, after a few years are going to be deregulated.”