You've seen this movie before: Albany Republicans want fewer regulations that prevent landlords from converting rent-stabilized apartments into market-rate units, while Democrats want to strengthen the regulations a little for those constituents who can't afford to pay $1,500 a month for a 300 square foot studio in ProCro. Reforms made in the '90s make it easier for building owners to change rent-stabilized units into market-rate apartments, and rent reform advocates say this has cost the city 300,000 rent-stabilized apartments.
It appears that Republicans and Democrats are at a standstill, surprising no one, and the issue is further complicated because competing bills in the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate are being held hostage by Republican demands for a proposed cap on state property taxes. Senate Republicans are refusing to vote on rent regulations until Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver calls a vote on property taxes. But Silver says Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos "clearly jeopardized" the tax cap by advancing legislation that would merely continue current tenant protections on the city's 1 million rent stabilized units—without reforms some Democrats demand.
With the deadline at midnight tonight and lawmakers set to go on vacation this week, there is little consensus on whether tenants in rent stabilized units should be panicking. Republicans and some Democrats insist there would be no immediate effect if the law expired. Gotham Gazette explains that "those Republicans and Democrats have different reasons for saying that. Democrats want time to work for a better bill; Republicans think the longer it takes to get a bill the more likely they will be able to simply renew the existing regulations rather than strengthen the law."
"Is an on-time bill better than a stronger bill?" Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger, a major supporter of strengthening rent laws, asked Gotham Gazette. "No. I would prefer to have the better bill... We have been here before; people forget that the laws expired in 1997. They lapsed for five days and the sky did not fall; they passed it retroactively." But Senator Gustavo Rivera, who says he has about 72,000 units of rent controlled housing in his district, disagrees: "This is about millions of New Yorkers losing their homes, this is not something to be played with. This could have an impact of a crisis level on the state."
In any case, there will be a rally for "real rent reform" tonight at 5 p.m. outside Governor Cuomo's Manhattan office at 633 Third Avenue. Demonstrators are demanding that Cuomo push through rent reform, not just an extension of the current regulations.