Heading into this year’s legislative session, Lower East Side tenant activists expressed high hopes for a stronger rent law. When the outlines were announced by Governor Cuomo yesterday, there was widespread disappointment.
There’s a deal with the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate to extend rent protections for four years. Tenant leaders had pushed for the end of vacancy decontrol, which allows landlords to charge market rate rents for apartments when they reach the $2500/month threshold. The details of the legislation have not been released and the Legislature will not vote on the proposal until next week. But Cuomo said the threshold would rise to $2700 in the coming year and be tied to rent increases approved by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board in future years.
In a related deal, the leaders agreed to renew for six months the controversial 421a tax incentive program, which rewards developers for creating affordable housing. It will be extended for a longer period providing unions and the real estate industry reach a compromise on a prevailing wage contract for construction workers.
The governor called the agreements “a major step forward.” But according to the Times, Michael McKee of Tenants PAC said, “This is an absolutely lousy deal I don’t know why (Assembly Speaker Carl) Heastie agreed to this, and it certainly represents a complete sellout by Andrew Cuomo to his real estate buddies.” In response, Cuomo asserted that tenant activists are never satisfied and said the deal was a major accomplishment in a year of unprecedented turmoil in Albany. Both Legislative chambers were thrown into chaos by the arrests of their leaders, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, on federal corruption charges.
The rent law expired on June 15 but lawmakers approved a temporary extension. Due to the delay in reaching a deal, the Rent Guidelines Board vote, scheduled to happen today, has been pushed to next Monday. Local tenant organizations, however, will be rallying for a rent rollback this afternoon at 5:30 at Cooper Union, 7 East 7th St.