June 26, 2015

"'Big Ugly's' biggest failure is that it does not repeal the 1997 state law that lets landlords deregulate vacant apartments."

Gothamist The four-year extension of the state’s rent laws enacted by the legislature late last night will do next to nothing to stem the escalation of rents and the hemorrhaging loss of affordable apartments in New York City and its inner suburbs. By Steven Wishnia.

'The bill, passed late last night as part of the kind of omnibus measure that Albany slang terms a “One Big Ugly”—its multitudinous provisions include one that lets Governor Andrew Cuomo perform weddings—contains some token improvements to the rent-stabilization laws, which protect about 2 million people in 1 million apartments in the city and Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland counties.

'It raises the threshold for deregulating vacant apartments from $2,500/month to $2,700, with that figure indexed to the increases allowed by the city Rent Guidelines Board beginning next year. It slightly reduces the rent increases permitted for major capital improvements. It says landlords for the 1 million rent-regulated apartments in NYC can’t claim an automatic 20 percent increase on vacant apartments if the previous tenant had been living there for less than four years and was paying less than the legal maximum. It increases the fines for landlords convicted of harassing tenants by $1,000.

'It also extends the 421-a tax subsidy for housing construction for four years, so long as the real-estate industry and the building-trades unions can agree within the next six months on when construction workers on buildings getting those tax breaks should be paid prevailing union-scale wages. Separate "poor door" entrances are no longer permitted, but de Blasio's proposed "Mansion Tax" was killed. The reforms slightly increase the percentage of below-market apartments that developments in the program must include—the mayor's office says that the new 421-a will create 24,000 affordable units over the next ten years, though it does not require any that people who make less than $31,000 a year can afford.'

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