NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Time is running out for the more than 2 million tenants covered by New York City’s rent laws while a deal to renew the regulations continues to elude New York state lawmakers.
The law governing the rent regulations will expire Monday if lawmakers do not act to extend them. Democratic lawmakers from New York City want the rules strengthened, but their plan has yet to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate. A vote to renew the rent law is still expected, though the length of the extension remains unsettled and big changes to the policy appear unlikely.
But NYC tenants say they want changes now, CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reports. They rallied outside Gov. Cuomo’s office Sunday.
“Eventually, it would be a different city here without these laws,” said resident Jimmy Walker.
Rent stabilization keeps prices relativity low for 1 million city apartments.
Anne Perryman and her family have lived in their Upper West Side apartment for over 40 years.
“Those of us here love the city — we came here for a reason,” Perryman said. “This gave us the life we wanted to live.”
Perryman added that it would be a shame that other people can’t live in the city because of the stabilization laws.
The rent laws are the most significant of several outstanding issues facing lawmakers before they are scheduled to adjourn their 2015 session on Wednesday. A key real estate development tax break also expires this month and must be renewed if it is to continue. Several other measures await votes, including bills to address campus sexual assault, reform the juvenile justice system and ban the sale of toys with potentially toxic chemicals.
“Let’s get with it,” said Assemblyman Steven Englebright, a Long Island Democrat. “We didn’t come here to go home empty-handed.”
Waiting until the last days and hours of the session to cast votes on critical items is a longstanding tradition in Albany, but this year the work is complicated by a recent rash of corruption arrests that have highlighted Albany’s backroom culture.
The leaders of both the Assembly and the Senate were forced to relinquish their positions earlier this year after being charged in separate corruption investigations. Ex-Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, is accused of taking $4 million in kickbacks. Former Senate Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island, is charged with using his influence to extort payments and a job for his son.
The specter of additional arrests has lawmakers on edge — and worried about how the typical end-of-session horse-trading might be viewed by federal prosecutors.
“You’ve got that hanging over everybody’s heads,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse.
Negotiations were expected to continue through the weekend as lawmakers looked for a way to resolve the session’s thorniest issues:
The state Assembly voted last month to extend the rent stabilization rules by four years and strengthen the regulations by making it harder for landlords to increase rent on vacant, rent-regulated units.
The Senate has yet to stake out a position. The renewal of the regulations could be tied to the extension of a cap on property taxes. The Senate voted Tuesday to make the cap permanent.
Lawmakers could vote Monday to extend the rent law as is for a short period of time — days, perhaps, or as long as a year — to give them more time to hash out a compromise.
A short extension would postpone the debate until the fall, or next year, when lawmakers will be up for re-election.
“I hate it,” Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Harlem, said when asked his views about the idea of a six-month renewal. “It would be a total abdication of our responsibility.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote a letter warning landlords that even if the rules do expire, he will call the Legislature back for a special session until an extension is passed and promised that it would be retroactive to June 15.
“If New York City’s rent regulations were to expire it would create mayhem and chaos for both tenants and landlords, and would roil the entire real estate industry,” Cuomo wrote. ” … Although June 15, 2015 is the day that several laws creating our rent stabilization system are set to expire, your legal obligations under existing leases and under the passage of the new rent stabilization program will not expire on that day; and any attempt to circumvent those responsibilities will face the full brunt of the law and all legal consequences.”
WEB EXTRA: Read Cuomo’s Letter To Landlords
Also linked to the debate over rent stabilization is a real estate tax break that saved New York City developers more than $1 billion last year. The incentive also expires on Monday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to tweak the program to require developers to include more affordable units — a proposal that’s been criticized by Cuomo. A straight extension of the law is looking more and more likely.
Mayor de Blasio fears that with the expiration of the rent stabilization law, landlords will jack up the rent and force people out on the street. But the rent stabilization association says it’s against the law.