Fix NY’s rent law ‘loopholes’ to protect tenants, Speaker Corey Johnson urges state

Urging legislators to close “loopholes” in state rent laws, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he wishes the city had more control over the regulations that allow landlords to hike up rents.

The laws are meant to protect the 2.5 million New Yorkers living in rent-controlled apartments, but the so-called loopholes, known as preferential rent, the vacancy bonus and vacancy decontrol, have led to a loss of rent-regulated units, advocates say.

“We wish we had more say in this, but unfortunately it’s a state issue,” Johnson said in a statement. “Ideally, the state legislature would give us home rule. Until then, I’ll be in Albany, in rallies around the city, fighting for tenant protections.”

The rent laws are up for expiration in June 2019, but Johnson, along with other members of City Council and housing advocates, are calling on the legislature to address them sooner. City Council voted Thursday to declare that a housing emergency still exists in the city, Johnson said.

Three bills that would close the loopholes are stuck in the Senate’s Housing, Construction and Community Development Committee. The chair of the committee, Sen. Betty Little, a Republican representing part of upstate New York, said in February that the rent laws are “traditionally negotiated at the time of sunset,” or just before the deadline.

There’s no reason the laws couldn’t be negotiated sooner, Johnson said.

“We see Albany do things ahead of time all the time if they think it’s the right thing,” he said at a rally outside City Hall Thursday.

The rally also included representatives from The Legal Aid Society, Make The Road, Tenants Political Action Committee, New York Communities for Change, Tenants & Neighbors and the Metropolitan Council on Housing.