May 28, 2015 by westsideneighborhoodalliance
Senate Democrats unveiled their preferred vision for an extension and strengthening of rent control on Wednesday, saying the issue of affordable housing is a statewide one.
Rent control for New York City and the surrounding areas is due to expire next month and it is likely lawmakers will approve a “straight” extension with little to no changes to the regulations.
Democratic lawmakers in the mainline conference at a news conference said they would oppose efforts to extend rent control without strengthening the measures.
“To just get out of town and pass an extender as the laws are written now is unacceptable,” said Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
To that end, lawmakers introduced measures designed to end the practice of vacancy decontrol and place limits on improvements landlords can do to buildings they say lead to a hike in rent for a property.
“The core of this vacancy decontrol,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Brooklyn Democrat. “It only exists because of the way Albany doesn’t work.”
Assembly Democrats last week approved their own version of a rent control measure, extending the laws to 2019 and ending vacancy decontrol as well.
Senate Republicans have shown little desire to strengthen the measures and are also negotiating the more nettlesome issue of the 421a tax abatement, a measure that has become a key concern in public corruption cases when it was last negotiated.
Senate Democrats for the moment are yet to take an official position on whether to back Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support for increasing the amount of affordable housing in the abatement extension or pushing for a prevailing wage measure as some housing advocates have sought.
“The conference realizes reforms need to be made,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “We will be conferencing that today and are expecting to meet with the mayor to hear his proposals.”
Meanwhile, Stewart-Cousins said both rent control and the state’s cap on property tax increases should be viewed as separate issues. The tax cap is not due to expire until next year, but is intertwined with the rent control measure (in essence, one cannot be re-approved without the other).
“I’m in Westchester, both of things are important,” Stewart-Cousins said, noting several suburban communities have rent-controlled properties. “I think each of us come with the view for the entire state. New Yorkers are obviously concerned about taxes and New Yorkers are obviously concerned about affordable housing.”
She added: “I don’t know the need to combine them because I think individually they both matter.”
Republican lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are pushing for a permanent extension of the cap.