Universal Rent Control for New York State

The Upstate-Downstate Housing Alliance is fighting for greater tenant protections for all New York residents. We believe that housing is a human right; that all people should live without the fear of eviction; and that strengthening renters’ rights is critical to strong neighborhoods, educational and health outcomes, and economic stability for all New Yorkers.

Over the course of the 20th century, New Yorkers across the state have benefited from various forms of rent control, which protects tenants’ from unjust evictions and arbitrary rent increases. Now, however, that system has been eroded so much that it only applies to tenants in 8 counties, and has been weakened with loopholes that encourage tenant harassment and allow sudden and permanent rent hikes. Since 1994, we have lost nearly 300,000 units of affordable, rent stabilized housing. 5 million New Yorkers have no renter protections whatsoever—simply because of where or what kind of housing they live in.

Every tenant in New York, no matter where they live, deserves the same basic protections.

In 2019, New York State’s renter protection framework -- commonly known as rent stabilization -- will expire, giving tenants a moment of leverage to strengthen and expand their rights. The State has the opportunity to both undo anti-tenant provisions that incentivize the loss of rent regulated housing, and extend our rent stabilization framework to cover all of New York’s tenants.

Our Housing Justice for All campaign is fighting for a legislative agenda that would stabilize neighborhoods and eliminate the control that corporate landlords have over housing in New York State.

Expand renters rights to cover the whole state

Remove geographic restrictions in the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) (need sponsors): The ETPA of 1974 allows local municipalities to opt into rent stabilization in the event of a local housing emergency. Under rent stabilization, landlords are subject to regulated rent increases and tenants benefit from the right to a renewal lease. However, only municipalities in Nassau, Westchester, Rockland counties and New York City are eligible to opt-in to renters’ rights. This geographic restriction should be struck from the ETPA so that renters across the State can fight to bring rent controls to their communities.

Pass new “good cause” eviction legislation to bring renters rights to tenants in smaller buildings and in manufactured home communities (need sponsors): Rent stabilization only applies to buildings with 6 or more units. But more and more, smaller buildings are being bought up by large corporate landlords, and tenants who live in them face escalating rents and displacement. In gentrifying parts of New York City, like East New York and Bushwick, the housing stock is overwhelmingly smaller buildings. As the housing affordability crisis seeps out of New York City and into the suburbs, it is imperative that we bring rent relief to smaller buildings as these residents increasingly come under threat of displacement. Good cause eviction would bring the right to a renewal lease at limited rent increases set by a local price index to all tenants.

End vacancy decontrol: Vacancy decontrol allows landlords to permanently deregulate apartments once the rent reaches $2,733 a month and the current occupant leaves the unit. This loophole has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of stable homes, and will lead to the eventual phasing out of all renter protections -- a windfall for landlords and a catastrophic loss for tenants. Our current legislative plan calls for repealing vacancy decontrol and re-regulating units that have been lost to this egregious loophole.

End rent hikes and tenant harassment caused by loopholes in rent stabilization

Make Preferential Rents last for the duration of the tenancy (S6527/A6285): A preferential rent is a discounted rent that tenants pay when the legally registered rent (which, in some cases, may incorporate illegal rent hikes) exceeds the actual market value of the apartment. But when tenants renew their leases, landlords can revert to the higher rent, leading to sudden and massive rent hikes. These rent hikes, often hundreds of dollars, accelerate gentrification by forcing tenants to give up their homes and move. Some 266,000 families in New York City have preferential rents, as do thousands more in the three suburban counties—meaning that they may be one lease away from an eviction. This bill mandates that landlords renew rent stabilized leases with increases, if any, based upon the existing rent level the tenant pays.

Eliminate the vacancy bonus (S1593/A9815): Under rent stabilization, landlords receive a 20% “statutory vacancy bonus” every time an apartment turns over. This bonus gives landlords a big incentive to harass and evict long-term tenants from the place they’ve called home for years. The preferential rent loophole and the eviction bonus are often used together. With these two enactments, the legislature created an outright scam that is victimizing tenants and destroying housing affordability, especially in low-income communities of color, and opened the wound that has led to the bleeding of thousands of units from the system.

Eliminate permanent rent hikes caused by major capital improvements and individual apartment increases (needs sponsors): Under our current system landlords that upgrade building systems and individual apartment finishes are able to pass the cost of those repairs onto tenants forever. However, many of these building systems repairs are necessary after years and years of neglect, and landlords often overstate the cost and extent of renovations. Any rent increases based on such improvements should be temporary. The law should serve as an incentive to keep buildings and apartments in good repair, not as a pretext for permanent rent hikes.