What Albany Did and Didn’t Do on Rent and Housing This Session
Both ‘good cause’ and a tax break for developers are doomed, and other things tenants should know about what made the cut in the state capital.
This article is adapted from our Rent Updates newsletter sent June 5, 2022. You can sign up here to get it by email.
Lawmaking in Albany has wrapped up for the season. How will it affect rent, and where you live?
Let’s take a look.
But first, a reminder: Monday is the first public hearing for the Rent Guidelines Board ahead of its final vote on rent increases. Scroll down for more information and a mini-guide on how to make your voice heard to the board.
Now, back to Albany:
Several major housing policies that had been on the agenda for legislators fell by the wayside as the legislative session ended on Friday — like a bill for “good cause” eviction protections, and a new version of a big tax break for apartment developers — while other smaller but notable bills went through, like a new mandate for flood disclosure in rental buildings.
All legislation now awaits the signature of Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Here’s what you should know about what Albany did — and did not do — during their big voting session this spring:
‘Good Cause’ on Pause
A policy aimed at giving more New York renters some power to fight evictions and rein in rent increases failed to pass in Albany. The proposal from State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) known as the “good cause” eviction bill would have capped rent hikes and made it harder for landlords to bring an eviction case without a specific, allowed reason.
Advocates pushed for the bill hard, arguing that among rising rent costs, an eviction crisis and inflation, New York tenants needed protection. The real estate industry lobbied against it, saying it would bring down revenue for property owners and make it much harder to maintain buildings.
Now, the legislation will sit on a shelf until the next time lawmakers meet — which isn’t scheduled to happen until January.
“It is just embarrassing to have to return to my constituents with nothing for them,” said Assemblymember Emily Gallagher of Brooklyn, a supporter of the bill, to Gothamist.
Hitting the Brakes on a Major Rental Tax Break
A huge tax break for developers of rental buildings will now expire, with no replacement.
Lawmakers couldn’t hammer out a deal to extend 421-a, the tax break that for decades has subsidized building projects in New York. That means it will end on June 15.
Why does this matter to renters? Because 421-a was a major way New York City incentivized builders to create income-targeted apartments that are usually priced below the going, market-rate rent. Rental apartments are also usually taxed at a higher rate than other types of housing. Without the tax break, some housing experts think the pipeline for building new housing, and affordable housing, could take a nosedive — exacerbating the city’s apartment crunch.
Others say that fear is overblown, and that 421-a is nothing more than a giveaway to developers.
Ahead of the deadline, builders are rushing to put foundations in the ground so they can take advantage of the program before it runs out, as THE CITY previously reported.
What will happen now that it’s gone? That remains to be seen, but we likely won’t start to see its true effect for months, if not years — if the program remains dead. In previous years, the legislature has let the tax break lapse, only to revive it in a subsequent session.
A New Trust for NYCHA
Albany approved a new funding plan for NYCHA that the leader of the city’s struggling public housing authority promises will lead to better-quality apartments for thousands of households.
Both the Assembly and Senate approved the Public Housing Preservation Trust, proposed by NYCHA Chairperson Gregory Russ, as a way to free up money for repairs.
Unlike NYCHA, the new trust will have the ability to issue bonds, enabling it to raise money — likely billions of dollars — that it could then use to renovate and upgrade public housing units. The trust will apply to just 25,000 apartments, to start, out of NYCHA’s total portfolio of about 172,000 apartments.
Tenants in those 25,000 apartments would switch out of traditional public housing and rely instead on Section 8 housing subsidies. The ownership and operation of NYCHA buildings, however, will remain with the housing authority.
Many tenant leaders do not support the initiative. Nine of the 10 members of the tenant leadership group representing all public housing residents, the Citywide Council of Presidents, were against it, as THE CITY previously reported.
NYCHA has not yet said which 25,000 apartments will be affected by the change. And the switch-over will take time to finalize, assuming Hochul signs it into law. Any renovations are unlikely to start this year.
Flood Risks for Renters
Under a bill passed in the last hours of the session on Friday, landlords would have to inform prospective tenants about whether a rental property is at risk of flooding or has flooded in the past, as well as what kind of flood insurance a renter could get if they wanted to protect against potential flood damage.
The legislation is an amendment of a previous version of the bill that aimed to close a loophole that allowed sellers of property in flood-prone areas to pay a new owner $500 instead of disclosing flood risk.
The tenant-focused disclosure passed both houses of the legislature. But the $500 loophole remains, as NY1 reported.
Speak Up at the RGB
The Rent Guidelines Board’s first public hearing on rent hikes for the city’s one million rent regulated apartments is tomorrow, Monday, June 6. It is a virtual hearing and begins at 2 p.m.
The RGB’s full instructions on how to participate are here, but here’s the short version:
- Register online beforehand here, or register by phone at (212) 669-7480 or email at email@example.com. When you register, you will be emailed a registration number, which will give you some idea where you fall in the virtual line to speak.
- Log into the meeting via Zoom using this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84075269526
- If you are accessing the meeting by phone, call 646-558-8656 and enter webinar ID 840 7526 9526, then press # to enter the meeting.
- You will be called on by the name you registered with, then promoted on Zoom to a “panelist” — with audio and video enabled — and then allowed to speak.
- Remember: You have just two minutes to testify, so use them wisely!
If you miss Monday’s hearing, don’t worry, there are four more scheduled throughout June.
What We’re Reading
- A new investigation found rampant housing discrimination against people using rental vouchers in New York, prompting a lawsuit against 120 real estate companies, The New York Times reported.
- THE CITY reported new Census figures showing that, even now, more New Yorkers are moving out of the city than into it — and our population is shrinking.
- Slate laid out the many contributing factors for why the New York City rental market is absolutely bonkers right now. It’s worth a read.
- Should landlords be called landlords? Curbed investigates the slippery semantics of property ownership.
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