Hope for Fairer Rent Laws After Democratic Win in Albany

More than 2.5 million tenants benefit from the rent stabilization laws in NYC. (Photo via El Diario)

In June next year, the rent stabilization laws on which more than 2.5 million New Yorkers depend will expire, and after the landslide Democratic victory in the Nov. 6 state elections, leaders, activists and tenants are urging incoming legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to promote fair changes and approve “universal rent control.”(…)

“The current rent laws incentivize landlords to harass and evict tenants from their homes and communities. Even though for years Gov. Cuomo has talked about reform, now is the moment to act,” said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change. (…)

The activist explained that the reform should also include the other 5.5 million New Yorkers living in private homes, which don’t have any housing protection. Under current laws and regulations, stabilized rent only applies to buildings with six or more units, excluding smaller buildings in neighborhoods like East New York and Bushwick in Brooklyn, where there is a large Latino population increasingly threatened by displacement. (…)

Another big fight that activists are asking the Democratic legislature to engage in is the elimination of a rule that allows landlords to act outside rent control regulations permanently. According to the existing law, once the rent exceeds $2,733 per month, the unit’s owner is free to raise the rent at will. This is considered by activists as one of the most worrying loopholes, as it legitimizes the gradual elimination of all tenant protections. (…)

María Cortés, 67, wants the new Legislature under Democratic control to fulfill its promise of reforming rent laws. (Photo by Edwin Martinez via El Diario)

“Many apartments in New York are nearing those high amounts and the owner can do what he pleases,” said María Cortés, 67, a Puerto Rican immigrant who has lived since 1992 in a three-bedroom apartment on Brooklyn’s Bedford Avenue. For 17 years she has been embroiled in legal battles to avoid being evicted along with her 82-year-old husband.

“If we are not given more legal protections, they will end up kicking me out, and where can I go? That’s why I’m asking the new senators and the governor to pass fair reforms for tenants; to give us a chance to live in protected apartments and stop rewarding landlords, because in my neighborhood there is no one left. They kicked everyone out. We lost our neighbors, our friends, and now this has turned into an area for the Orthodox Jewish community,” said the grandmother. (…)

Activists and leaders are now looking at the new faces in Albany, many of them Latinas who came to power partly campaigning for rent regulation reform, and now vow to honor their word.

“(…) We must change Albany and it is urgent to fight for rent laws for the tenants, not the developers and corporations that have been benefiting for all these years,” said Sen.-elect Julia Salazar, adding that thanks to her campaign, which did not take corporate funds, she is not beholden to powerful interests and will be able to help vulnerable communities. (…)

Sen.-elect Jessica Ramos also vowed to fight “to repeal the current law that makes Albany dictate rent regulations in the city. I believe New York City must have control of its rent laws, just like other municipalities in the state do.”

(…)

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