Friday, December 26, 2014

NY Times' "What's Up Next in NY: Airbnb and Rent Regulation"

NY Times article  EXCERPT: 

Meanwhile, New Yorkers living in the city’s nearly one million rent-stabilized apartments should brace for a fight in Albany in June, when the rent-stabilization law expires. Housing advocates hope to see a reversal of a rule that allows landlords to deregulate vacant units if the rent reaches $2,500 a month.

Over the past 20 years, at least 133,000 units in the city have gone market rate because of this rule, according to the Rent Guidelines Board.  If the trend continues, rent stabilization could be further weakened, undermining Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to preserve affordable housing, say supporters of the policy.

“This is our make or break moment for the tenant movement,” said Ilana Maier, the program director for the Metropolitan Council on Housing. “If we aren’t able to drastically strengthen the rules now, none of this will matter in 10 years.”

But with a Republican-controlled State Senate, opponents of rent stabilization doubt that 2015 will be a watershed year for the tenants’ movement. Sherwin Belkin, a lawyer who represents landlords, said: “Landlords view this as an opportunity to make some much-needed changes to rent regulation.”

One suggested change: require rent-stabilized tenants to verify their income.

This website's editorial comment: That suggestion (apparently by big real estate interests) for changing the rent laws would require rent-stabilized tenants to verify their income.  

But income is irrelevant to keeping New York City's stock of affordable housing by repealing vacancy deregulation.  Some 95% of apartments that are de-regulated lose their protection when they are VACANT - so the tenants' income has nothing to do with it.  Only about 5% of rent stabilized apartments are de-regulated because the household income is $200,000 or more AND the rent is at least $2500.  In any event, the median income for rent stabilized apartments is roughly $39,000/year. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

US private equity firm gives up as London tenant fight back, and more: McKee's articles 12/21/2014

Long Dark Shadows of Plutocracy - Bill Moyers Show

Check out the excellent video of the Bill Moyers show, The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy.   He links together the super-tall towers, like private safe deposit boxes for oligarchs, and the shadows these investment properties cast over Central Park and the 40 million New Yorkers who use it yearly.  There are clips from interviews with Jaron Benjamin, former head of Met Council on Housing, and State Senator Liz Krueger (among the good folks), and State Senator Martin Golden (among the baddies).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bill would give lawyers to many tenants in Housing Court

First in the nation - if it passes.  This bill builds on a concept presented earlier by NYS Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman.

Council Member Mark Levine has proposed a bill to pay for lawyers in housing court for low-income tenants. 

Currently, 90% of tenants in  Housing Court have no lawyer, while 90% of landlords have one.  Guess who wins.

Ensuring legal representation for what can be a life-changing court decision is crucial, says Council Member Levine.  It makes sense morally and economically:

  • Many families are made homeless by court eviction.
  • Homelessness costs the City an enormous amount (over  $3,000/month for shelter). That doesn't count the obvious costs to those suffering homelessness, including extra travel to get the kids to their regular school and to get to work, mental and physical ailments requiring treatment, and more. 
  • Landlords whose business plan includes trying to evict many tenants at once  may well be dissuaded when they know that the tenants will be represented. 
So paying $2000 for a private lawyer could save the City many thousands of dollars. And it's the right thing to do. 

It would cover those whose incomes do not exceed 125% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). These are the 2014 figures: 
For a family of 1, 125% of the FPL is $14,587.50
For a family of 2, 125% of the FPL is $19,662.50
For a family of 3, 125% of the FPL is $24,737.50
For a family of 4, 125% of the FPL is $34,887.50
About 60% of tenants in Housing Court are within those income levels according to C.M. Levine.

NY Times:  Push to Provide Lawyers in New York City Housing Court Gains Momentum, by Mireya Navarro, Dec. 16, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sign a petition to repeal vacancy deregulation

Many groups are working together to repeal vacancy deregulation, to reduce or end the bonus landlords get when they re-rent a vacant apartment, to limit Major Capital Improvement increases, and more.  (See the  legislative program.).  Work with those groups, AND  express your individual voice on the matter by clicking here. 

Sign the petition!

Petitioning Governor Andrew Cuomo
Repeal Vacancy Deregulation

Because of vacancy deregulation, New York has lost more affordable housing than it can build in the near future.  Some 90% of apartments taken out of rent control or rent stabilization are deregulated because they are VACANT.  (Only about 5% are deregulated because of the tenant's income.)  In fact, the median income for a rent regulated family in NYC is about $39,000 a year. 
Ending vacancy deregulation will end landlords' incentive to get tenants out - and reduce harassment.  
Ending vacancy deregulation will mean fewer families become homeless.
Passing (2014 legislative numbered) bills A.1858 and S.1167 will mean more affordable, regulated apartments for our children and the 99% of New Yorkers who need it. Regulation protects tenants' rights
  • to a renewal lease at a rate fixed by the Rent Guidelines Board
  • to complain without fear of eviction
  • to have the family members living with them for years get the apartment if the primary tenant leaves.
And under those bills many apartments would be re-regulated.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nat'l Low Income Housing Trust Fund comes to pass!

Mel Watt, the Director of the Federal Housing Finance 
Agency, has lifted the suspension on Fannie Mae and 
Freddie Mac’s obligation to contribute to the National 
Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and the Capital Magnet 
Fund (CMF). At long last, the NHTF will be funded.
After eight years of advocacy to get the NHTF established 
and another six years to secure a dedicated funding source, 
the NHTF will have resources to begin ameliorating the 
shortage of housing that the lowest income and most 
vulnerable people in our country can afford, providing 
a major boost to efforts to end homelessness and housing 
poverty in the United States.