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) (S5040/A7046): 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 (S2892/A5030): 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 (S2591/A1198): 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 control and rent stabilization
Make preferential rents permanent (S2845A/A4349): 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 (S185/A2351): 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 (S3693/A6322) and individual apartment increases (S3770/A6465): 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. We would ban landlords from passing the costs of maintaining and upgrading their investments onto tenants.
Reform the “four year” look-back rule: (S4169/A5251). The rent regulation system relies on tenants to enforce the law. So if a landlord flouts the law and overcharges tenants, it is up to the tenant to complain and pursue a case against the landlord. Currently tenants have four years to make a complaint. However, this harsh rule has led to massive amounts of fraud being given legal status because tenants did not complain at the right time. This bill reforms the system by changing the look back period to six years and providing exceptions to the rule so that tenants can hold landlords accountable to following the law.
Rent control relief (S299A/A167): Right now, New York has two systems of rent regulation. Rent stabilization, which impacts the majority of rent regulated tenants, and rent control, which applies to about 40,000 people. Under the “Maximum Base Rent” system for rent control, tenants can face up to a 7.5% rent increase annually — much higher than the yearly adjustments for rent stabilized tenants. Our current system is confusing and arbitrary. This bill would bring rent control increases in line with the standard rent guidelines board increases.
End homelessness in new york state
Homelessness is a statewide crisis. New York’s rental affordability crisis, combined with a lack of state action over the past seven years to protect rent-burdened tenants, has resulted in a rapid expansion of homelessness. There are over 89,000 homeless people living across New York – a number that has increased 36% since 2010. Homelessness has declined nationwide during this same period.
While most attention has been focused on New York City, communities across the State have also faced increases in homelessness. In Rochester, the homeless population increased by 18%. On Long Island homelessness increased by 20%. Albany’s homeless population increased by 23%. In Binghamton homelessness increase by 31%.
Most local governments lack the resources necessary to fund the robust social services and housing programs that homeless families requires.
Current shelter assistance levels for low income families and individuals are shockingly low, and have not increased since 1988. In Rochester, “fair market rent” for a two-bedroom apartment is currently $951 a month, yet a 3 person household is only afforded $343 a month in shelter assistance. In New York City, fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,599 a month, but the shelter allowance for an individual is just $215/month.
invest in Long term,
Statewide rental Assistance programs
give residents power over where they live and eliminate corporate takeover of the housing market
invest in deeply affordable and resident-run affordable housing programs
Home Stability Support (HSS) (S2375/A1620): HSS is a new statewide rent supplement for low-income families and individuals who are facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. It would help bridge the difference between public assistance shelter allowance and fair market rents.
Tenants’ right to take legal action: When tenants don’t pay their rent, landlords are quick to take them to court for eviction proceedings. But when landlords aren’t making repairs, tenants don’t have the same options. This would give tenants the ability to easily take landlords to court for bad conditions and neglect.
Enact sanction reform outside of New York City: Under the current system, people outside of New York City who rely on public assistance and miss as little as a single day of work or a required meeting or appointment, can face an automatic suspension of benefits for six months due to the existing “sanctions process.” In addition to stopping an individual’s public assistance checks, sanctions also mean that the recipient is no longer permitted to participate in work, education and training programs, they face the loss of child-care and transportation assistance, and they are denied access to critical housing resources, such as shelter and rental assistance programs.
Right of first refusal: As more and more predatory equity companies buy-up manufactured housing communities across the state, state law should give the residents the right to purchase when the parks go on the market.
Fully fund and create 20,000 units of supportive housing: Supportive housing breaks the cycle of homelessness by pairing permanent housing with on-site services for people with a history of substance abuse, and/or who have mental and physical health needs. Supportive housing is widely seen as the most cost-effective strategy proven to solve homelessness for those with the greatest needs. In partnership with New York City’s commitment for 15,000 units of supportive housing, New York State could benefit from a total of 35,000 units of vital supportive housing.