This morning, the New York Daily News published an op-ed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo detailing his record of support for affordable housing and proposal to strengthen and extend New York City's rent regulation laws, which are set to expire this year. If the legislature does not act on new rent regulations by the end of this legislative session, the Governor will call a special session until they are passed.
The op-ed can be viewed here. The full text is also included below:
Safe, affordable housing is the foundation of our communities. Without it, New York may be a place to live, but it will not be a home for millions of New Yorkers.
The protection of affordable housing has been a passion of mine for over 30 years.
As founder of the Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged, and then as U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, it was my mission to increase the supply of affordable housing, crack down on discrimination and expand programs to help grow housing options for low-income communities.
Before I took office, New York’s stock of affordable housing was being rapidly depleted with each passing year. In the 15 years prior to the passage of the new rent controls, New York had lost more than 230,000 apartments from the rent regulated system, and we faced the threat of losing over 100,000 more if we did not act.
So four years ago, with tenants facing lease manipulation and the loss of their rent-regulated apartments due to renovation schemes, we limited vacancy bonuses and altered the calculations and verification system to make sure landlords played by the rules.
And arguably our most important innovation was the creation of the first ever Tenant Protection Unit empowered with the authority to investigate, audit and bring legal action against landlords who gamed unsuspecting tenants.
These historic efforts were matched by an equally historic investment of $1 billion in the House NY program, which provides developers capital to build affordable housing.
The House NY program has helped spur the creation of thousands of affordable housing units; the TPU has helped return 40,000 units to rent regulation.
Yet despite our action four years ago, the crisis of affordability is back with a vengeance. Once again we are faced with an expiration emergency and, this time, the stakes are even higher.
Rising rent costs are taking an increasingly high toll on New York City residents. In 2012, roughly 55% of the city’s residents were spending more than 30% of their gross annual income on rent, and 30% of New York City’s renters were spending more than half of their gross annual income on rent.
Of the 3.4 million housing units in New York City, fewer than half are rent stabilized and only 1.2% are rent controlled. Access to rent stabilized units is incredibly limited, with only 2.12% of those units vacant, a figure far lower than the national average of 7%.
If these trends continue, affordable housing and the foundation of a vibrant middle-class will soon be a distant memory.
As we chart a newer, bolder, more sustainable course on affordable housing, we are not only protecting the rights of millions of New Yorkers, but also potentially millions more around the country.
So as Albany continues to debate rent regulations, our goal must be to strengthen and sustain them, not just extend them.
We must eliminate vacancy decontrol or at the very least significantly raise vacancy decontrol thresholds; further limit vacancy bonuses to ensure landlords aren’t rewarded financially for schemes to force tenants out; make major capital improvements and individual apartment improvement surcharges that go away once recovered by landlords, instead of ways of artificially raising a unit’s monthly rent; and make the preferential rent operate as the legal rent for the life of the tenancy. These should be foundational elements of any new rent regulation legislation.
While the Legislature has it in their hands to negotiate the specifics of the debate, there is one point that is non-negotiable: Their work will not be done unless and until they pass a law to strengthen and extend tenant protections.
I will call them back into session every day if necessary until tenants are protected with new regulations.
Providing “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family” was the goal of the National Housing Act of 1949. So many decades later, we must recommit to that goal so New Yorkers can continue to call this city and state their home.
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