As the clock ticked toward midnight last Monday night in Albany, the expiration of rent control in the greater NYC area, and the assignment of blame for that possible expiration, dominated discussion. And a very short extension of the rent regulations became the only solution.
With legislature shaken by corruption investigations, and the Senate and Assembly under new leadership, this seems like the worst time to revamp rent control. But the law is expiring, it needs changes to stop abuse, and nothing ever gets done without a deadline and drama.
Rent-control renewal was held up because Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Republican Senate majority badly want to pass tax credits for private school tuition and donations to private and public schools. Rent control became the hostage held over a Democratic Assembly that's beholden to schoolteachers unions that oppose the tax credits.
Both rent control and the tax credit bills need modifications so the right people benefit from programs that aim to help the poor and middle class. It would be reasonable to require tenants to verify that their rent-controlled apartments are their primary residences, and for renters to verify their incomes. Meanwhile, there needs to be a lower limit on the income of families that would receive private school scholarships from donations that earn tax credits. However, the income limit on families that would receive a $500 tuition tax credit, $60,000 a year, should go up. So it's a perfect situation for "Let's Make a Deal."
But Mondaythere was no sign of such progress. What became almost certain was a two-day extension of rent control while the arguing continued. Meanwhile, the fate of quieter but needed bills was left hanging. One bill, for example, would make it legal for people treated unfairly by insurers to recover legal fees. Running a state is a detail business, and little bills can fall through the cracks.
That happens every year. What's rarer is the chance to fix a rent-control law that affects more than a million people or an opportunity to pass tuition and donation tax credits that can really help the kids who need it. These opportunities can't be allowed to slip away.