STATE LEGISLATURE PASSES HOUSING REFORMS TO INCREASE RENT REGULATION.

The New York State Assembly passed a legislative package on Monday that will reform housing regulations to increase rent-regulated units statewide. The bill would return tens of thousands of units that were converted to market rate back to rent-regulated status.  It would also reduce the amount a landlord can increase rent after it was vacated from 20% to 10%, limit the owner's rights to recover rent regulated apartments for personal use, and increase fines on tenant harassment.

The bill would also repeal Urstadt Laws, which were passed along with Vacancy Decontrol in 1971, that transferred the authority to regulate rents away from the city and into the hands of the state. 

"For too long, representatives from upstate New York have had too much control over how New York City governs its housing policy," said the City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn in a statement.  "This system has destabilized communities and spurred the loss of hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing, many of them home to some of our most vulnerable residents.  By repealing the Urstadt laws, we can restore home rule and put authority back where it belongs—in the hands of the local legislature." 

This is a major victory for affordable housing activists (such as the Good Old East Siders (GOLE) and the New York City Tenants Alliance) who in recent years have been rallying for more tenant-favoring legislation since incidents of tenant harassment cases  rose sharply and many were displaced from their homes. 

"New York cannot continue to bleed affordable housing as it has in the past decade," said Democratic Housing Committee Chair Vito J Lopez. "The Assembly has heard the call of hardworking housing advocates and today we passed the important laws tenants need to keep them from being priced out of their apartments. Our legislation stands to preserve potentially thousands of tenants in rent-regulated apartments in the New York metropolitan area from excessive rent increases, harassment and intimidation from landlords."

Democrats, who only in January gained a majority in the legislature, have long promised housing reforms.  Prior to the party shift, the senate had spent decades under Republican majority, which was widely perceived as favoring the real estate industry. 

Those opposed to the change argue that enacting more regulations will shrink the housing market and stifle the already ailing economy. Along with real estate agencies, private equity firms also have a major financial stake in the affordable housing sector as they have become entangled in the affordable housing debate by backing major developers who are now in default.

Though still seen as a victory, many predict the package will have a tougher time passing in the Senate, which only has a slim party majority of 32-30.  According to the office of Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith, the legislation won't be open to review until the state budget has been sorted out, presumably at the end of March.