Socialist-minded legislators in Albany won’t quit until they bankrupt every apartment-building landlord in New York City — and make the housing crisis even worse than it is.
A bill now in the Legislature, sneakily disguised as an eviction-prevention measure, would impose rent controls on market-rate buildings for the first time.
The reversal of generations-old policy would drive small, immigrant and minority-group landlords out of business and leave their buildings at the mercy of well-heeled real-estate companies hoping to demolish them for new construction.
“This bill is universal rent control,” warned Sharon Redhead, whose family emigrated from Grenada in the Caribbean and who owns five small buildings in Brownsville and East Flatbush, Brooklyn. “The sponsors don’t believe in free enterprise.”
“If this bill comes to pass, a lot of small housing providers will have to sell,” said Cynthia Brooks, who owns a two-story, four-family brick house at 2181 Strauss Street in Brownsville.
“You have to be in control of your building,” she said, but she’s not sure that’s possible if the law prevents her from charging enough rent to run the building. “My name is on the deed, but am I the real owner or not?”
Owners were already reeling from the fraudulently-named Housing Stability & Tenant Protection Act of 2019, which severely curbed their rights to raise rents in order to pay for repairs in the Big Apple’s 2.4 million rent-stabilized and rent-controlled units.
That stroke of woke had the effect of making many apartments unfit to live in, and left many vacant.
As of 2021, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development reported approximately 43,000 vacant rent-stabilized units.
Of those, 29,000 were “under or awaiting renovation.” But an unknown number of the remaining 14,000 were believed to be frozen because landlords could not afford to fix them due to rent-hike limits imposed by the 2019 law.
Next up in the State Assembly and State Senate is the equally bogusly-named Good Cause Eviction bill. Having nothing to do with evictions, it’s a Trojan Horse for imposing rent controls on the city’s 1.4 million market-rate apartments for the first time.
The odious bill would cap rent increases on market-rate units at 3% or 1.5% of the consumer price index, whichever is higher.
Tenants could challenge even those small increases in notoriously landlord-hating Housing Court.
Challenges by landlords, meanwhile, would likely go nowhere. The state has absolute legal authority, New York’s constitution, to regulate housing including market-rate apartments.
Until now, only rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments in New York State — the vast majority of them in the Big Apple — have been subject to limits on rent increases.
A coalition called Homeowners for an Affordable New York, which includes the Real Estate Board of New York and landlord-advocacy groups, accurately calls the bill “an ideologically-driven pursuit by far-left socialists that does nothing to address the housing supply shortage and would, in fact, make finding an apartment more difficult and impossibly expensive for new renters.”
Under current law, a landlord can decline to renew a lease with 30-90 days advance notice. But GCE requires them to offer new leases when old ones expire regardless of any circumstances, such as whether the tenant posed a danger to neighbors.
“The bill’s name is a misnomer,” said Brooklyn landlord Redhead. “A lease expiration is not eviction, but simply the end of a contract.”
Among many more disastrous provisions, GCE would end long-permitted legal conversion to market-rate rents in certain vacant, stabilized apartments.
It would reduce rent increases that landlords can apply for if they made improvements for tenants’ benefit, from 6% to 2%.
Say hello to more broken boilers and faulty wiring!
Third-generation Chinatown property owner Jan Lee, who owns on Mott Street, told The Post: “The people behind GCE have no interest in learning about the other side of the balance sheet — such as real estate taxes and insurance.”
Redhead agreed. “The biggest driver of rent increases is property taxes,” she said. “Our taxes have increased to pay for legislators’ 30% salary increase.”
Her apartments include both stabilized and market-rate units.
“We rent below market when we can,” Redhead added. “But when the city raises my property taxes 75% over two years, we have to raise rent.”
Valentina Gojcaj, whose Albanian family came to America by way of the former Yugoslavia, owns two small buildings in the north Bronx and said the bill will hurt her.
The rent roll on her eight-unit property at 2526 Holland Avenue in the Allerton neighborhood is about $130,000 a year. Her real estate taxes are over $60,000. And Gojcaj’s other costs are soaring.
Heating oil in 2020 was $1.10 per gallon, she said. It climbed to $6 over the winter. Gojcaj buys 9,000 gallons a year.
“Due to the ridiculous way the city assesses taxes,” the building is “underwater” — the term for properties where debt and/or operating costs exceed income — she told The Post.
GCE has enough support to make the real estate industry tremble. City Hall should tremble, too, because property-related taxes pump more dough into city coffers than Wall Street does.
The bill has 54 co-sponsors in the 150-member Assembly and 22 co-sponsors in the 63-seat State Senate. The Assembly sponsor is Pamela Hunter (D-Syracuse) and the Senate Sponsor is self-proclaimed “Democratic socialist” Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn).
The leftist Legal Aid Society and socialist-oriented organizations call the measure a “priority.”
They’re opposed by a determined coalition called Homeowners for an Affordable New York, which includes the Real Estate Board of New York and landlord-advocacy groups who understand what’s at stake.
Although Gov. Kathy Hochul hasn’t endorsed the bill — at least not yet — one well-traveled Albany insider snarked, “The lefties humiliated her by rejecting her Court of Appeals choice for top judge [Hector LaSalle]. Now they’re itching to pile on. If she caves on GCE, it will make her their obedient poodle for good.”