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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Real Rent Reform Campaign

Opinion from Guest Blogger Gregory Lobo Jost
Looking to undo the damage done to New York renters by the Rent Reform Act of 1997, a coalition of groups across the City (and suburbs) have launched a new campaign to increase rent regulations. According to Joe Lamport on Gotham Gazette, the main four goals of the campaign are:

    • Repealing vacancy decontrol, a provision of the law enacted in 1997 that allows
      landlords to remove apartments from the rent regulation system.
    • Reforming the Rent Guidelines Board. The board's annual deliberations have led to rent increases every year since it was created in 1969. Under current law, the mayor appoints all members. Advocates want that changed so that the City Council would have to approve those appointments. They also seek new rules that would require property owners to provide more timely income and expense data. Currently, the data on how much landlords collect from and spend on their buildings is a year old, based on filings to the city's Department of Finance one year before the board deliberates.
    • Saving Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 projects. Landlords received tax incentives and other considerations to build affordable housing under these programs. But now that rents are rising, landlords been buying out of these programs and, in many cases immediately begin charging market rents. Advocates want new laws that would put these apartments under rent stabilization.
    • Repealing the Urstadt Law. The Urstadt Law was passed in 1972 and effectively prevents the city from making housing laws to affect rent regulated apartments. Advocates want the return of "home rule" to the city on its housing.
The entire campaign depends on the Democrats taking control of the State Senate in November. Even if that does take place, a tough battle against the well-funded landlord lobby means the campaign will need to be strong and unified.


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