Next week, the New York City Council will vote to renew the city rent control and city rent stabilization laws. The City Council must do this every three years. And because the City lacks home rule powers, the Council cannot strengthen rent or eviction protections. For that, we have to go to Albany, where the state rent and coop laws are due to expire in 15 months, on June 15, 2019.
New City Council Speaker Corey Johnson understands that simply renewing the laws in their current weakened form is not enough. He has told tenant advocates that he plans to help us put pressure on the state legislature and governor to close the loopholes that allow landlords to take apartments out of the system when they become vacant, and also allow landlords to raise rents to the point that even tenants in rent-regulated apartments are often forced to move.
We need a good turnout for these three events, not because there is any doubt that the city rent laws will be renewed, but because we need to show Speaker Johnson and the other City Council members that we are ready to work with them to force Albany to do the right thing.
Talking Points for Tenant Testimony
Reso 188-A declares that New York City still has a housing emergency requiring the regulation and control of residential rents and evictions; once the City Council passes this reso on March 21, the city rent control law is renewed for another three years, until April 1, 2021, without any action required by the mayor.
Intro 600-A is a bill that renews the New York City Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 for another three years, until April 1, 2021. This must be signed into law by the mayor; because April 1 is a Sunday, the mayor’s bill-signing hearing is likely to beMonday, April 2.
Because the state Urstadt Law prevents the City Council and mayor from strengthening rent and eviction protections, tenants must go to Albany to close loopholes in the laws that allow landlords to remove units from regulation, and which allow landlords to increase rents to the point that tenants in rent-protected apartments are often forced to move. With an indifferent governor and a hostile state senate controlled by Republicans, tenants have not been able to pass any bills in Albany. Corey Johnson has told tenant advocates that he will use his bully pulpit as Speaker to help the tenant movement force Albany to act.
- Identify yourself and your organization, if any.
- State that you support Resolution 188-A and Intro 600-A.
- Thank Speaker Corey Johnson for helping the tenant movement put pressure on Albany to close the loopholes in the state and city rent laws, and for understanding that merely renewing the city rent laws in their weakened state is not an adequate response to the affordability crisis we are now experiencing throughout the five boroughs. You can also thank other Council members.
- Talk about one or more of the current loopholes in the state and city rent laws, and how you and your neighbors/members have been affected by these weaknesses. Not to minimize the importance of any issue, we want to focus on three major loopholes:
- The need to repeal Vacancy Deregulation and re-regulate the units that have been lost to decontrol;
- The need to repeal the preferential rent loophole that allows landlords to slam rent-stabilized tenants with huge rent increases when they renew their leases;
- The need to repeal the statutory vacancy bonus (properly described as an eviction bonus) that allows landlords to tack on a 20 percent rent hike whenever an apartment turns over, giving landlords an irresistible incentive to harass and evict.
- Other possible subjects can include: Major Capital Improvement reform; Individual Apartment Improvement reform; protections for former Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 buildings; relief for rent-controlled tenants; protections for loft tenants; and tighter standards for owner use evictions.
You can talk about any of these reforms in terms of what is happening in your building or neighborhood: harassment, bad building conditions, evictions, gentrification, displacement. But be sure to link your description to the necessary changes in the laws.
- Thank Speaker Johnson and Housing Committee chair Robert Cornegy for their support for stronger rent laws.
NOTE: You will probably have three minutes to testify, so you might want to practice to make sure you cover the necessary points. If you submit a written statement (a good idea), try to make it fit on one page.
NOTE: Following your testimony, Council members might ask you questions. Any such questions will likely be friendly, as most City Council members agree with us. But one Council member in particular, Mark Gjonaj, a landlord who when he was in the Assembly voted against repeal of Vacancy Deregulation, might not be so friendly.
NOTE: Everyone who testifies should approach the sergeant-at-arms at the front of the Council Chamber when you arrive, and fill out a witness slip, indicating that you are there to support Reso 188-A and Intro 600-A.
MEMBERS OF CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON HOUSING AND BUILDINGS:
Robert E. Cornegy, chair; Fernando Cabrera; Margaret S. Chin; Rafael L. Espinal, Jr.; Mark Gjonaj; Barry S. Grodenchik, Bill Perkins, Carlina Rivera, Helen K. Rosenthal, Ritchie J. Torres; Jumaane D. Williams