AAFE has released the following statement on the ongoing negotiations in Albany over the future of New York’s rent law:
AAFE urges Governor Cuomo, the New York State Assembly, and the New York State Senate to reform and strengthen rent regulations, in order to protect tenants from high rent burdens and displacement, and to prevent further loss of rent-stabilized housing at a time when homelessness remains a crisis.
AAFE is a community-based organization that organizes low-income, immigrant tenants to advocate for their housing rights. Through our organizing work in Manhattan Chinatown and Jackson Heights, we have been overwhelmed by the number of low-income tenants seeking relief from accelerated and extraordinary rent increases. These rent increases are a direct result of private landlords using the vacancy bonus, preferential rent increases, and unsubstantiated applications for Major Capital Improvement and Individual Apartment Improvements to deregulate rent regulated units and evict vulnerable tenants. The current system of rent regulation laws is broken and cannot remain status quo.
AAFE is also a nonprofit affordable housing developer and manages over 800 units of affordable housing in New York City. We know from this experience that it is possible to provide safe, affordable housing. We also know of smaller landlords in the communities we serve who have sold their rent-regulated buildings to speculators, after struggling with the financial costs of investing in, and maintaining their buildings, while keeping their low-income tenants in place. This is not a desirable outcome, when it contributes to increasing rent burdens and the potential displacement of low-income tenants, as well as further loss of rent-regulated housing stock.
Informed by these experiences, AAFE supports the following comprehensive package of reforms:
• Ending vacancy deregulation
• Eliminating the 20% vacancy bonus and replacing it with a fixed and capped amount, rather than a percentage of the prior tenant’s rent
• Eliminating Major Capital Improvement and Individual Apartment Improvement rent increases and replacing with temporary surcharges for repairs that improve health, safety, and livability
• Making preferential rents permanent during tenancy
We also support new programs to help smaller landlords make investments in repairing and improving the quality of rent-regulated housing stock, by providing low-cost financing and technical assistance.
Additionally, new programs must be paired with more resources for government enforcement, so that the onus for substantiating building and apartment improvements does not fall on low-income tenants. Landlords should also be required to register the unit rent annually. Failure to register the annual unit rent should render any rent increases to be treated as rent overcharges, entitling tenants to collect the rent overcharge with penalties.
Preserving quality affordable housing is essential for providing families and communities with a foundation for economic stability and well-being. We urge the Governor, Assembly, and Senate to do the right thing – expand tenant protections, support responsible property stewardship, and strengthen enforcement – to preserve rent-regulated housing.