This summer a raft of state rent control regulations and lucrative tax breaks for developers are set to expire. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's record on tenants' rights was not good, but he's been disgraced (by a scandal involving real estate kickbacks) and replaced by Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who yesterday met with Mayor de Blasio and promised to make strengthening rent regulations "our number one priority."
Heastie met with de Blasio at the rent-stabilized Ebbets Field Apartments in Crown Heights, and told reporters he was there “just to let the tenants here know, and the mayor of the City of New York know, that this is going to be our number one priority, to extend and strengthen rent regulation in the City of New York—to partner with the mayor in his vision for affordable housing.”
The Times reports that Heastie did not provide any specifics on what this meant, but that Mayor de Blasio, who made affordable housing the central plank of his State of the City speech last week, offered more platitudes:
“When it comes to the issue of affordable housing, he’s going to fight for the people of New York City. He’s going to see the faces of the families of this city while he’s fighting that fight on behalf of all of us.”
"Fight" in this case may be a relative term, considering how much power the real estate lobby wields in Albany. Seven of Governor Cuomo's top ten campaign donors are connected to real estate (the corruption commission dissolved by the governor found that developers funneled money to our chief executive through an LLC loophole). The head of the real estate lobby, whose name came up in the corruption commission's findings, recently copped to being "braggy" about donating to a tide of winning candidates.
The Metropolitan Council On Housing, whose motto is "housing for people, not profit," wants the state legislature to repeal vacancy deregulation, which allows landlords to deregulate apartments if the rent can be raised to $2,500, an amount most landlords are all too eager to reach through renovations. Their vision would re-regulate all apartments that have turned market-rate if the rent is under $5,000.
For all the reasons above (money), this likely won't happen. Legislators will probably raise the amount of rent necessary to deregulate an apartment by a token amount that landlords will still gladly pay. Given that 11,000 affordable housing units are lost to deregulation each year, the Met Council rightly states that this action "would be fraud."
Repealing the Urstadt law to allow New York City to determine its own rent regulations is so far-fetched that the Met Council has given up fighting for it.
As for the 421-a tax abatements for developers that have been so flagrantly abused by developers, there is hope that their use will be extended but tied to strict requirements for building affordable housing, or abolished altogether, but that hope—all this hope—truly rests on whether we'll be hearing anything more from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.