Opinion: Why we’re pushing for stronger rent laws early

(Pictured after returning from Albany, left to right) Tom Kuhn, Peter Sullivan, Judy Miller (back row), Mary Garvey, Sherryl Kirschenbaum, Michael Madonia (back row), Susan Steinberg, Patrice Michaels, Anne Greenberg, Alex Lee, Regina Shane and Chandra Patel. (Photo by Harvey Epstein)

By Susan Steinberg
President, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association

Here we go again.  New York State’s rent laws expire in June 2019 and tenant groups are already taking action to renew and strengthen them.

The 2019 date was deliberately set at the time of the 2015 rent law renewal so it would occur in a non-election year, saving incumbents from the danger of losing their seats as a result of a strong, forceful tenant lobby. 2018 is, of course, an election year which means that now is the time to start putting the pressure on state legislators who want tenant support for their election or re-election runs. Since bills to strengthen rent laws can be passed any time prior to the June 2019 expiration, the challenge is to get them to the floor of the Senate for a vote. They are now languishing in the Senate’s Housing Committee. (The State Assembly has already passed two bills and will easily pass a third but the Senate has yet to act.)

What is the tenants’ game plan? We are pushing for passage of three bills to strengthen regulations by repealing two laws most responsible for the loss of rent-regulated units — vacancy deregulation and vacancy bonus — and for closing the preferential rent loophole.  Vacancy decontrol is responsible for the loss of 250,000 rent-regulated units over the past decade; the vacancy bonus gives landlords a 20 percent rent increase each time an apartment turns over; preferential rents are a discount from the legal rent that can be taken away at lease renewal leading to a sudden increase of hundreds of dollars.

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Tenant lobbying event in Albany

Real Rent Reform (R3), a coalition of tenant advocacy groups, is organizing a lobbying day in Albany on Thursday, March 22 to tell the State Senate to close the loopholes that are making housing in this city unaffordable. Even in rent-regulated apartments, the rent is too high and stability is at risk. Nearly 266,000 tenants live with a preferential rent which means their rent can jump hundreds of dollars when their lease is up.

Transportation will be provided free of cost by R3 as well as a light breakfast and lunch.

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will have representatives there and is asking neighbors to attend.

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Tenants protest preferential rent

Renters around city call for change in law

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Board Member Anne Greenberg speaks at the Bronx event, alongside other tenant activists from around the city. (Photo by  Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Board Member Anne Greenberg speaks at the Bronx event, alongside other tenant activists from around the city. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A few board members of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association joined in a chorus of tenant leaders from around the city at a rally against preferential rents and the unexpectedly steep increases they allow landlords to charge.

The event, also a tenant town hall meeting, was held in the Bronx last Thursday. The Real Rent Reform Campaign hosted the rally, which was attended primarily by Bronx residents and community groups but also tenants from Manhattan and Brooklyn, at the True Witness Shiloh Apostolic Church in the Allerton neighborhood and was attended by about 100 tenants and community organizers.

Tenant advocates at the meeting from the Bronx Park East Community Association, Alliance for Tenant Power, the Met Council on Housing and the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation offered information for residents on preferential rent, vacancy bonuses and the possible renewal of the 421A tax breaks.

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The clock is ticking: bus trips to Albany

The June 15 deadline for the expiration of rent laws is only breaths away and The Real Rent Reform Campaign is organizing trips to Albany on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. The group is also preparing to take tenants to Albany every day after June 15, if the laws are not yet renewed. There will be a “mass mobilization” to Albany on Monday, June 13 at 8 a.m. Buses are free and lunch will be provided. Find bus locations and schedules below:

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