By Council Member Keith Powers, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and State Senator Brad Hoylman
As tenants in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village know all too well, there’s nothing minor about a Major Capital Improvement (MCI). That’s why we’re pushing for the elimination of MCIs in Albany this June.
Almost weekly, we hear from tenants about new MCIs being added to their rent, costs that never disappear, and the unfairness of a system that transforms sometimes dubious improvements into permanent revenue streams for landlords. These costs push rents higher and only exacerbate annual rent increases.
In theory, MCIs are designed to incentivize landlords to continually keep up and improve properties with rent stabilized tenants. For example, a landlord might pay to replace a boiler or install new windows with the ability to pass a portion of the costs onto the tenants. MCIs allow owners of residential buildings to apply to New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) for permanent rent increases after completing improvements or installations — not repairs — to rent regulated buildings. Part of the problem is that HCR almost always automatically approves these requests, leaving tenants bearing the burden. In fact, we have been helping the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association contest 39 MCIs dating back over a decade.
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village is unique in New York for its sheer size and scale, which allows its owner to invest in these improvements and pass costs along more and more. Over the years, we’ve received hundreds of complaints about these approvals from many of our 25,000 ST-PCV neighbors. Unfortunately, the reality of MCIs means thousands of these tenants are paying for these improvements two, three, or even more times over after receiving monthly rent increases in perpetuity. Tenants continue paying the rent increases associated with the MCI — up to a 6% annual increase — even after the total of those increases exceeds the cost of the MCI itself, and on top of Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) increases.
That’s why we’re pushing to overturn the MCI system as part of this year’s extension of rent regulation. This opportunity is possible because of the fierce advocacy of groups like the ST-PCV Tenants Association — many of whom joined us up in Albany for Tenant Tuesday — who’ve fought against these MCIs year after year to hold landlords accountable. Plus, with New York City legislators now in charge of both the Senate and Assembly, the political stars have finally aligned in our favor.
We can’t afford to pass up this chance to alter the impact of MCIs that cost tenants hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year in rent increases. Let’s make Major Capital Improvements a major issue in the renewal of the rent laws this June.