In a move that may or may not distract voters from his role in the Senate coup and the ongoing investigation into his shady non-profit groups, State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada will introduce a bill today that would freeze the rent for nearly 300,000 low- and moderate-income households in rent-subsidized apartments in all five boroughs. The program, if approved by the full Legislature, would be funded through landlords, not city or state funds, the AP reports. But the devil is in the details, and the bill is just as sweet, if not sweeter, for the property owners Espada has consistently gone to bat for.
Espada, the former Chair of the Senate Housing Committee, says the program would cost $77 million a year, which would be covered by letting landlords who want out of the rent-regulation program refund J-51 tax breaks from previous years. You may recall that these tax breaks were at the center of the Stuy Town tenant lawsuit that sunk Tishman Speyer—the state's highest court ruled that the property owner "wrongfully raised rents and deregulated thousands of apartments after receiving special tax breaks."
The rent-freeze proposal would compensate participating landlords with new tax exemptions in exchange for freezing rents for eligible tenants in rent-stabilized apartments who make under $45,000 a year and spend a third or more of their monthly wages on rent. When Espada first announced his scheme, Michael McKee, a spokesman for the Tenants Political Action Committee, told the Daily News, "I smell a rat here. I think this is probably designed to let Tishman Speyer and other landlords who have been illegally deregulating units off the hook."