State legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed on a four-year extension of rent regulations this week.
Yes, that’s all there is.
They should have and could have done so much more.
At least tenants can breathe easier, knowing rent protections are here to stay for a while, but Albany lost an opportunity to make real, necessary change. State leaders didn’t make the system better or more honest. They didn’t strengthen regulations for tenants or landlords.
Lawmakers pointed to one change they made — an increase in the rent threshold that determines whether a vacant apartment can be deregulated — as a tenant victory.
Really? How much of a difference will a $200 increase, from $2,500 to $2,700, make? Even if an apartment is stabilized at a monthly rent of $2,700, it’s still not affordable to those earning less than $100,000 a year. Lowering how much landlords can spend on improvements to a vacant apartment, which reduces the increase in rent passed along to a new tenant, doesn’t do much, either.
And income verification is needed to make sure that the program is helping the right people, not those earning high salaries and paying ridiculously low rents.
Albany put off the hard choices and big decisions. It’s better than nothing, but it doesn’t deserve applause.
That’s more troubling when considering a similar delay tactic used with 421a, a tax abatement program meant to spur affordable housing. It, too, got a six-month extension without real change, as the program was punted to the developers and unions to determine wage standards.
The growing rift between Mayor Bill de Blasio and state leaders led Albany to give the mayor a one-year extension on mayoral control of city schools. It also meant there was no attempt by Albany to prioritize the mayor’s interests.
But city residents who need these programs most are the ones who lose. Lawmakers could have added income verification and genuine protections in rent regulation. They could have required affordable housing in 421a projects.
Then, Albany could have touted real success.