En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Crain's New York Business
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Push on in NY senate for rent reg bills

But housing committee chair says the most controversial bill, which would pave the way for many market rate apartments to be placed back into rent regulation, will go nowhere.

The chairman of the New York State Senate’s housing committee said he
will attempt to push through at least two bills that would strengthen the rent
regulations law but that he can’t guarantee they’ll come up for a vote in the
full senate before the legislative session ends next month.

The Assembly has already passed a raft of **pro-tenant legislation that
landlord advocates insist will cost building owners millions of dollars and
discourage them from investing in their properties.

However, Housing Committee Chairman Pedro Espada added that he believes a
bill that landlords find especially dangerous—because it paves the way for
thousands of market rate apartments to be placed back into rent regulation—will
effectively be sidelined by a possible move into the finance committee. Mr.
Espada said the bill, which would regulate apartments with rents over $5,000 a
month, will likely end up there because of its major economic implications. He
added he believes Finance Committee Chairman Carl Kruger will be unlikely to
push for a vote on the measure. Mr. Kruger’s office didn’t return a call for
comment.

Mr. Espada’s comments followed a press conference by 16 senators and various
tenant advocates calling for a full court press to pass a series of
tenant-friendly bills before the legislative session ends next month. However,
Mr. Espada says there is no way all bills could move through committee.

“I
don’t see enough time to give all these bills attention,” said Mr. Espada. “I
must have 20-something housing bills to address.”

However, there is speculation that Mr. Espada may not remain chairman of the
committee for much longer. On Monday, Senate Majority leader Malcom Smith that
he has a week to file complete campaign finance records and submit a payment
plan for past fines stemming from his failure to file reports or else he will
face unspecified action. Some have speculated he could lose his chairmanship if
he doesn’t comply.

In a statement, Mr. Espada said that he will pay a $61,500 penalty to the
City Campaign Finance Board by Aug 1, 2009 and that he is waiting to hear how
much he owes the State Board of Elections so he can pay it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Espada says he will advance a bill that would impose a
moratorium on removing buildings from the Mitchell-Lama Program, which provides
subsidized housing. He would also move to have a bill sponsored by the New York
State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. That bill would make it tougher
for landlords to remove apartments from rent stabilization by claiming that
renovations they made on vacant units drove the rent value up past $2,000.

Michael McKee, treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, says the
Mitchell-Lama bill is a good stop-gap measure but doesn’t address the thousands
of units that have already left the program. There is another bill to address
that but Mr. Espada has no plans to shepherd that piece of legislation.

Mr. McKee added that the bill put forward by DHCR is toothless and that the
bill which would reregulate apartments needs to reach the floor.

Joe Strasberg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, a lobby group
for owners of rent stabilized buildings, says there are already regulations in
place to address landlords who misrepresent how much they spend renovating
apartments and he fears a new law would be used as a “weapon” against those
lawfully trying to transfer units out of the program.

Mr. Strasberg added is still concerned that the bill which attempts to
re-regulate apartments could reach the floor.

**Make the Road NY is an active member of the Real Rent Reform Coalition responsible for the pro-tenant legislation.