New Coalition of Affordable Housing Industry Leaders, Tenant Advocates and Labor Calls for Crucial Reforms to State Rent Laws 

Coalition Launch Marks First Time That New York’s Affordable Housing Industry Has Joined Forces with Advocates Across the Spectrum on Agreement Regarding Proposal for Rent Regulation Reforms

Proposal Calls for Ending High-Rent Vacancy Decontrol, Restoring Preferential Rent Protections and Reforming Provisions for Vacancy Allowance, Major Capital Improvements & Individual Apartment Improvements

New York, NY (November 13, 2018) – In advance of the 2019 New York State legislative session, a new, first-of-its-kind coalition of housing advocates, for-profit and non-profit developers, tenant advocates and labor union stakeholders today announced an agreement on proposals to reform the state’s rent laws, which impact 2.5 million New Yorkers living in rent-stabilized housing but are set to expire on June 15, 2019. The coalition shared its joint proposal for reforming rent regulations in the attached letter to Gov. Cuomo and state legislative leaders.

The formation of this coalition represents the first time that New York’s affordable housing industry has joined forces with tenant advocates and labor to advocate for crucial rent reforms. The coalition includes Enterprise Community Partners, Legal Aid Society, New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH), New York Housing Conference, Community Service Society, AARP New York, Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, DC37, Coalition for the Homeless, VOCAL-NY, Center for NYC Neighborhoods, LISC NYC, Supportive Housing Network of New York, Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), LeadingAge New York, LiveOn NY, Housing Rights Initiative and Neighborhood Preservation Coalition of New York State. 

Rent regulation in New York State is a system of laws designed to promote housing stability in the face of the historically tight rental market in and around New York City. However, after a destructive wave of deregulation that began in 1997, loopholes in the rent laws have combined with inadequate enforcement to drive up rents and have resulted in the loss of over 150,000 rent regulated units since the early 1990s.

The coalition is calling on state leaders to enact the following reforms to New York’s rent laws during the 2019 legislative session:

  • End High-Rent Vacancy Decontrol
    This pathway toward deregulation, which has only been a feature of rent regulation since 1994, has encouraged the use of both lawful and unlawful means to increase rents past the deregulation threshold of $2,733 per month. These means frequently entail harassment and fraud and have resulted in displacement of long-term tenants from their homes. This year, the rent laws must be restored to their original promise by ending deregulation.
  • Restore Preferential Rent Protection
    The State should return the rent laws to their pre-2003 form and no longer permit landlords to revoke a preferential rent upon lease renewal. Tenants with preferential rents must no longer fear the loss of their homes due to rent increases beyond those allowed under Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) rules.
  • Reform the Vacancy Allowance, Major Capital Improvements (MCI), and Individual Apartment Improvements (IAI)
    The State should reform the provisions governing the Vacancy Allowance and Major Capital Improvement and Individual Apartment Improvement increases in a way that reduces excessive rent hikes but ensures that owners can provide safe and decent housing. Taken together, these provisions produce an exponential impact on regulated rents, creating significant financial incentives for tenant turnover, resulting in displacement. 

“We urge the Governor and State Legislature to act swiftly to make these common sense rent law reforms. All New Yorkers benefit when families are able to stay in their homes, and strengthening these laws will better protect the hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income households who rely on rent protections,” said Judi Kende, vice president and New York market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “So we are proud to come together with for-profit and nonprofit developers and advocates to make these recommendations that are fair to building owners while promoting housing stability."

“As we continue maximizing the production of affordable homes to address New York’s statewide housing crisis, NYSAFAH recognizes the crucial importance of strengthening our state’s rent laws to help protect the millions of New Yorkers already living in rent-stabilized housing,” said Jolie Milstein, president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH). “We will work with stakeholders to urge the State Legislature to take greater action on affordable housing across the board – and that means building more new affordable housing while also expanding efforts to preserve the units we have now.”

“On a daily basis, tenants in New York City increasingly face skyrocketing rent burdens and displacement pressures that often push them to the brink of homelessness,” said Judith Goldiner, Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “This must change, and it starts with Albany closing the rent law loopholes and enacting other key housing reforms.  New York’s affordable housing crisis has reached an impasse and our clients need action now. The Legal Aid Society looks forward to working with our new partners to ensure that local tenants have a codified right to safe and affordable housing.”

"We encourage Albany lawmakers to undo the harmful policies that have been contributing to rising rents and displacement, while also recognizing the importance of maintaining and upgrading New York City's rent stabilized housing,” said Rachel Fee, Executive Director of New York Housing Conference

“Rent regulation protects close to a million households in New York City, including 365,000 low-income households,” said David R. Jones, Esq., President and CEO, Community Service Society of New York. “While it provides tenants with both protections from rent hikes and security of tenure, the framework has been weakened repeatedly. Community Service Society has long advocated for stronger rent laws, because of their importance to low-income New Yorkers. In 2019, we finally have the opportunity to strengthen and expand renter protections.”

"It is imperative for Albany to act now to close the loopholes in New York State's rent laws," said Aaron Carr, Founder and Executive Director of the Housing Rights Initiative. "Reforming rent regulations is critical to protecting the rights of tenants, enabling families to stay in their communities, and preserving affordable housing across the five boroughs. We look forward to working with our esteemed colleagues at Legal Aid, Enterprise Community Partners, and NYSAFAH to see this through."

“The Coalition for the Homeless warned from the get go that so-called vacancy bonuses would wreak havoc and cause homelessness by destabilizing the rent stabilized housing stock – and this is exactly what we have seen,” said Shelly Nortz, Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Coalition for the Homeless. “Albany will have a chance this Spring to finally set things right, by passing real reforms to strengthen our rent laws and close loopholes. This is not just a matter of keeping rents affordable for New York families. Weak rent laws are a direct contributor to New York’s homelessness crisis.”

“The rent-regulated multifamily housing stock is a vital resource for maintaining housing affordability for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, and we enthusiastically support the efforts of this first-of-its-kind coalition to bring greater fairness and transparency to the state’s rent laws,” said Sam Marks, Executive Director of LISC NYC. “Bad actor landlords and speculators have exploited loopholes in the rent laws governing vacancy decontrol, vacancy allowances, preferential rents, capital improvements, and individual apartment improvements to harass and ultimately displace long-term tenants. Displacement and tenant turnover are in turn disrupting the social fabric of our neighborhoods and fueling a homelessness crisis. We stand alongside fellow coalition members and strongly encourage Governor Cuomo and members of the State Legislature to close these loopholes in the upcoming legislative session.”
“Recognizing the vast need for affordable housing for seniors throughout New York City and the state at-large, LiveOn NY is proud to support policies that will maintain the long-term affordability and viability of our rent-stabilized housing stock,” stated Allison Nickerson, Executive Director of LiveOn NY. “Affordable housing is a key component to ensuring that all New Yorkers are able to age with dignity and grace, and we are encouraged by the diverse coalition of voices working to protect the incredible resource that is our rent-stabilized housing portfolio.”  
“The Supportive Housing Network wholeheartedly endorses this coalition’s recommendations regarding reforming the City’s rent regulations,” said Laura Mascuch of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. “The unprecedented loss of truly affordable housing over the last twenty years has led to unprecedented levels of homelessness in New York City – more than 60,000 New Yorkers are homeless right now. We look to the newly constituted legislature to address this pressing issue as its first order of business.”