Monday, May 5, 2014

Mayor's Proposals for Preserving Rent Regulated Apartments

Mayor de Blasio has proposed a 10-year plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.  His proposals for rent regulation are at pages 53-54 (and it's hard to copy them directly from his website).

Check them out!

Preserve Rent-Regulated and Unregulated 
Affordable Housing

Rent-stabilized apartments are a critical component of the City’s affordable housing stock. Approximately half of all rental units are currently subject to rent stabilization, which provides tenants with important rights and regulates rent increases for more than 2.3 million New Yorkers. However, decontrol provisions implemented in 1993, along with market pressures, have resulted in the loss or deregulation of 250,000 units from the rent-stabilized stock.

Some unregulated housing offers affordable rents without the assistance of public subsidies because neighborhood market conditions keep rents low. However, because these units are not bound by regulatory agreements or rent regulations, they may become unaffordable or unavailable if the market heats up, or if operating costs increase dramatically.

Stem the Tide of Units Exiting Rent Stabilization

The majority of the units that have left the rent-stabilized housing stock were lost through high rent vacancy decontrol, which allows units to exit rent regulation when a unit is vacant and the legal rent for the incoming tenant exceeds $2,500 per month. A small proportion were lost through high income/high rent deregulation (so called “luxury decontrol” which allows units to exit rent regulation when the occupant’s annual income exceeds $200,000 for two consecutive years and the legal rent exceeds $2,500 per month). Legal rents can escalate quickly to that $2,500 trigger through annual rent increases, permissible increases upon vacancy, and/or rent increases due to Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) and Individual
Apartment Improvements (IAIs).

The state law governing rent stabilization will come before the State legislature for renewal in 2015. The City will advocate strenuously for renewal, and for strengthening rent stabilization protections. Further, the City will work with our State partners to seek to amend the New York State Local Emergency Housing Rent Control Act (LEHRCA) in order to effectively repeal the Urstadt Law and 2003 amendments, which limit the City’s role in the State rent regulation scheme.

Strengthen Protection for Tenants of Rent-Stabilized Housing

In 2013, over 30,000 New York City families were displaced from their homes as a result of eviction proceedings filed in Housing Court. The lack of legal representation for low- and moderate-income tenants facing eviction limits their awareness of their rights as tenants and makes it more difficult for them to defend themselves against actions initiated by landlords. Legal services are a critical preservation tool as they can prevent landlords from pursuing evictions simply to move their apartments out of rent stabilization. Unfortunately, the current demand for tenant legal services far exceeds supply.

We will streamline City programs that provide eviction prevention services to help ensure that tenants in rent-stabilized units stay in their homes. In addition, we will seek external funding to support eviction prevention programs and will ask private law firms to provide pro bono legal services to defend tenants facing eviction or other housing court actions. Finally, we will work with community based organizations and tenant organizations to increase tenant education in order to preserve the affordability of the rent-stabilized housing stock.

Tenants of rent-stabilized apartments may apply to the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) for rent reductions due to substandard conditions or services. In order to help protect tenants’ rights and encourage landlords to provide required repairs and services, HPD will work with HCR to determine how HPD’s code compliance efforts could assist HCR with their enforcement of the rent reduction provisions.

Preserve the affordability of unregulated housing where rents may rise because of changing neighborhood conditions. 

The pipeline to preserve housing that is currently affordable because of market conditions in the neighborhood has been largely generated through individual property owners coming forward to seek a tax exemption and/or subsidies for rehabilitation. Using new outreach strategies and preservation tools, we will proactively identify and invest in these properties in order to preserve their affordability before rents in the neighborhood increase dramatically. Such investments will allow current tenants to benefit from improved units, and permit future
tenants to be assured that the unit remains affordable, even as the neighborhood’s housing values and rents increase.