En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Bill de Blasio to propose sweeping changes to rein in NYC rents

Mayor de Blasio is after some rent that’s too damn high.

De Blasio will propose Tuesday the most sweeping expansion of tenant protections in decades for the city’s 1 million rent-regulated apartments.

“Rent is the No. 1 expense for New Yorkers,” de Blasio said as he unveiled exclusively to the Daily News key reforms he wants the state Legislature to enact before existing rent regulations expire June 15.

Look for a fierce battle over the next six weeks between housing advocates and the real estate industry over the mayor’s proposal.

“Unless we change the status quo, tens of thousands of hardworking families will be pushed out of their homes,” de Blasio said.

Among the key changes he wants:

* An end to a law that allows landlords to charge a tenant market rates once a rent-regulated unit passes a monthly threshold — currently set at $2,500. De Blasio is urging no threshold, in an effort to assure the city’s stock of affordable apartments remains permanently regulated.

* No more vacancy bonus. That’s a separate rule that allows landlords to automatically hike a unit’s rent by 20% each time a tenant moves out.

* Tough new restrictions on rent surcharges by landlords. Under current law, an owner can tack on monthly charges to recoup from tenants costs of major improvements to a building or individual apartment. But those surcharges become a permanent part of the base rent. De Blasio wants them temporary — spread out over 10 years — with rents resetting to original levels after that.

“We’ve never had a mayor of New York stand meaningfully with the tenants of this city, and de Blasio’s done that now,” said Mike McKee, a veteran housing advocate and treasurer of the New York Tenants Political Action Committee.

The real estate industry is bound to see it as a declaration of war.

“The current rent regulations have worked well in terms of injecting needed capital for landlords to improve buildings,” said Frank Ricci, director of government relations for the Rent Stabilization Association.

De Blasio points, however, to the huge number of units — 257,000 — that were released from rent control over the past 20 years, including 35,000 lost just since 2011. Many of those were in largely minority neighborhoods that have become increasingly gentrified.

One activist describes the toll in two fast-changing neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.

“Five years ago, people would have laughed at a $2,500 rent in Bushwick,” said Javier Valdes of the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York. “But they aren’t laughing any more. The displacement of old residents in Bushwick and Jackson Heights is astronomical.”

Up in Albany, Senate Republicans managed for years to block stronger rent laws. But the ground could be shifting, now that Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos has joined the Democrats’ former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, in the lineup of political leaders busted by the feds on charges of extorting a major landlord for money in exchange for pro-landlord legislation.

Now we’re learning why Albany couldn’t hear the cries of the tenants.

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