The fact that the power has shifted drastically in Albany has been missed by no one, in particular landlords, who for many years could rely on the Republican-controlled State Senate to kill any bill deemed too tenant-friendly. While it’s tempting to dismiss the ongoing preening of Albany Democrats as the usual hot air, it isn’t. Good evidence of this is that the property owners of New York City are fighting tooth and nail to defend the status quo.
To keep major capital improvement (MCI) and individual apartment improvement (IAI) rent increases, which are permanently tacked onto a tenant’s rent, they’ve sought cooperation from contractors to argue that owners will stop improving their buildings, which will hurt middle class people who need the jobs. It’s a pathetic argument, however, because if a landlord allows his or her property to deteriorate, just because they can no longer get reimbursed for the project (and earn a profit on top of that) then he or she is nothing but a slumlord. And not deserving of anyone’s pity. Certainly not any more than the renters who are made to pay in perpetuity to improve properties they don’t own.
The system that allows MCIs and IAIs has been abused for many years. A story in this week’s issue of Town & Village demonstrates just how easy it is for someone in charge of renovations to wildly inflate costs of IAIs for the purpose of deregulating units. All they have to do is be willing to fill out credible looking paperwork, send it to a housing agency too under-resourced to verify the information and employ people who don’t mind getting paid more than a renovation should actually cost. This must end.
As the deadline to renew the rent regulations draws closer, further evidence of the fact that landlords are bracing for a loss is a recent, quietly held meeting between key industry players and nonprofit organizations fighting for stronger rent laws, as Gothamist recently reported. Among those in attendance was a representative from Blackstone. (A spokesperson for the company didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
The article notes: “The willingness of three big real estate players to meet with the opposition far from the heavily politicized atmosphere of Albany suggests that the powerful industry is coming to grips with a fear that their members no longer hold the same political clout.”
But protecting tenants from endless rent hikes isn’t about flexing progressive political muscle. It’s about fairness. And it’s about time.