Questions answered at housing forum

Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmember Keith Powers, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, Cooper Square Committee director of organizing and policy Brandon Kielbasa, State Senator Liz Krueger and Legal Aid housing attorney Ellen Davidson at the forum last week. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein’s office sponsored a forum on Thursday at the NYU Dental School on East 24th Street regarding the rent laws that passed in June to answer questions that tenants have about rent regulation and affordable housing protections.

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, as well as Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmembers Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera and Ben Kallos, were also in attendance, and Legal Aid housing attorney Ellen Davidson was available to answer questions about the complex aspects of the new laws.

“The MCI section [of the rent laws] is just like MCIs: very complicated,” Davidson said of one of the parts of the law most difficult to understand. “[The Division of Housing and Community Renewal] will have to set a schedule of reasonable costs of what can be recovered but they have to do it quickly because they can’t do any work until it’s approved.”

One of the victories that state legislators claimed in the passage of the rent laws was an annual cap on MCIs, or major capital improvements, at 2%. The previous cap was 6%. The new law also caps the amount that a landlord can pass on to tenants after a vacant apartment is renovated at $89, while also eliminating the previous 20% vacancy bonus that landlords could add after tenants moved out.

State Senator Brad Hoylman

Tenants at the forum expressed concern that limiting increases through MCIs and IAIs (individual apartment increases) might prompt landlords to let apartments deteriorate, but Davidson said that owners are obligated to keep apartments and buildings in good repair.

“MCIs and IAIs aren’t meant to apply to routine maintenance so tenants can file for a diminution of services,” she said. “Landlords didn’t do routine maintenance in the past as a way to force tenants out, even though it would’ve been cheaper for them just to maintain the buildings. We’re hoping that they’ll see it’s in their best interest to do repairs when they come up.”

One question relegated to Glick asked if rent-stabilized tenants still needed their rent-stabilized apartment to be their primary residence, and Glick said yes, also adding that succession rights on rent-stabilized apartments are in effect.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t visit your aunt for a month in Florida in the cold months,” she said of the question about primary residence. “But where you vote and where your car is registered should be here.”

Another question suggested a proposal that would prevent seniors from ever getting evicted for any reason, and Glick said that such a proposal was not being considered.

“But there are many ways that all tenants are protected now, not just seniors,” she said.

Hoylman received a question regarding a lawsuit that building owners have filed, and whether or not that will impact the protections that passed.

Housing attorney Ellen Davidson

“There’s been no temporary restraining order to suspend the laws and the laws went into effect immediately,” Hoylman said, with Davidson adding that it was unlikely they would get overturned.

“The only way the laws would get overturned is if the courts decide that apartments can’t be regulated at all, but that’s especially radical,” she said. “There was previously a 9-0 decision in the Supreme Court upholding rent control. I don’t think it’s getting to the Supreme Court but if it does, it will be 9-0 again.”

Limits were also placed on security deposits in the new laws, meaning that landlords can only collect one month of security for all renters. (Security deposits were already capped to one month for rent-stabilized tenants.) The limits are similar to legislation from Councilmembers Rivera and Powers introduced earlier this year that would cap the amount that renters are charged for a broker hired by a landlord at one month of rent, as well as limiting security deposits to one month’s rent.

Brandon Kielbasa, director of organizing and policy at the Cooper Square Committee, encouraged tenants to get involved in order to hold landlords accountable.

“Organizing is key to making sure that buildings stay maintained,” he said. “Forming a tenants association is your strongest weapon and the strongest way to do that.”

Krueger noted at the forum that some tenants have expressed disappointment to her about additional protections that weren’t included, but she said that the legislature will continue to make adjustments.

“We’re not done. We just set a base,” she said. “Our next step is to put unregulated units back into regulation. There’s nothing that encourages like success. We’re going to continue the fight for the expansion of actual affordable housing.”

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5 thoughts on “Questions answered at housing forum

  1. It’s outrageous and greedy to ask if your rent-stabilized apartment needs to be your primary residence. What happened to all the brouhaha about affordable housing in NYC for the middle-class? These are NOT supposed to be pied-à-terres. If you don’t want this to be your primary residence (prefer your place in Boca or Southampton or Hawaii or Cape Cod?) – then give it up for another family. As if.

  2. I think the only thing wrong with the new laws is that there is no income cap for rent stabilized apartments. Anthony Weiner was right on that issue. Probably the only issue he was ever right on.

  3. There should be an asset cap — and it should be grandfathered. There is an asset cap for new stabilized tenants in the Stuytown lottery – should be the same for all.

  4. “There is an asset cap for new stabilized tenants in the Stuytown lottery – should be the same for all.”

    The renovated apartments you refer to are the NYC lottery apartments which have their own “affordable housing” income which is a joke. These apartments plus the remaining non-renovated apartments left were to be included as part of the infamous BdB/Blackstone deal for 5,000 apartments to remain “affordable” until 2035. With the Act, Blackstone’s business plan based on vacancy decontrol *(now gone forever) has changed dramatically. The other renovated apartments have no income requirements/restrictions at all and are usually filled with parental funded students-”young professionals” Example, $6,000 per month rent for a “flex” 3 bedroom ST apartment. . ALL PCVST apartments are currently NYS Rent Stabilized apartments and as per the Act,a major victory for tenant rights, will remain so forever. The question is what happens to non-renovated apartments when those tenants die or move away. Since Blackstone is now crying poverty (Boo-Hoo) and has stopped major renovations of these apartments, what happens to those apartments? Will they be rented “as is’, slightly renovated, or warehoused?

    Sorry, have to go; my limo awaits me to take me to my Southampton mansion via Blade helicopter. This is on purpose shade to “Robert” who throws out his REBNY/RSA talking points quite nicely. Aren’t there some Golub notices that you have to complete (pre-Act) that will only be sent to non-renovated apartments and just ignore AirBnb renovated apartments since, what the hell, they pay “market rate”. And “Boca”, that’s Rick’s world and maybe yours, not mine.

    *The four horsemen of the apocalypse vacancy decontrol were: Pataki, Bruno, Weiner and Vallone.

    • You clearly mixed up comments about ‘pied a terres’ with a question about asset caps. And YES there are plenty of ‘longtime tenants’ who own other (even multiple) properties. You probably know a few of them. They even list their properties in some of the Stuyown Tenants group, I didn’t make these up. Who else would dare to ask the question about whether or not a rent-stabilized apartment has to by a primary residence? Please stick to the point, and don’t be so sarcastic. Not a good look.

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