The Upstate-Downstate Housing Alliance is fighting for greater tenant protections for all New York residents. We believe that housing is a human right; that all people should live without the fear of eviction; and that strengthening renters’ rights is critical to strong neighborhoods, education and health, and economic stability for all New Yorkers.
For more than 70 years, New Yorkers across the state have benefited from various forms of rent control, which protects tenants from unjust evictions and arbitrary rent increases. Now, however, that system has been eroded so much that it only applies to tenants in eight counties. It has been weakened with loopholes that encourage tenant harassment and allow sudden and permanent rent hikes. Since 1994, we have lost nearly 300,000 units of affordable, rent-stabilized housing. Five million renters in New York State have no protections whatsoever.
Every tenant in New York, no matter where they live, deserves the same basic protections.
In 2019, New York State’s renter protection framework — commonly known as rent stabilization — will expire. Our Housing Justice for All campaign is fighting for a legislative agenda that would stabilize neighborhoods and eliminate the control that corporate landlords have over housing in New York State. Our priorities would:
Expand renters’ rights across New York State, and return renters’ rights to hundreds of thousands of households.
Remove geographic restrictions in the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA): Under the ETPA, commonly known as rent stabilization, tenants have the right to renew their lease and landlords are limited in how much they can raise rents. Local elected officials have the right to “opt in” to the ETPA and enact basic renter protections to control rising housing costs and displacement. However, that ETPA only applies to eight downstate counties. This arbitrary restriction prevents tenants in Kingston or Rochester from having the basic protections that many tenants in New York City have.
Pass “good cause” eviction protections: Good-cause eviction legislation, a common-sense renter protection that exists in New Jersey, would give every tenant the right to a renewal lease, with a minimal rent increase based on local market conditions. Unlike rent stabilization, which only applies to buildings with six or more units in New York City and the surrounding counties, good-cause eviction protection would apply to all renters, regardless of where they live. Good-cause eviction protections should also be extended to cover lot rents in manufactured-home communities, which are increasingly owned by corporate real-estate players.
End vacancy decontrol: Vacancy decontrol lets landlords permanently deregulate apartments once the rent reaches $2,733 a month and the current occupant moves out. This has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of stable homes, and will lead to the eventual phasing out of all renter protections — a windfall for landlords and a catastrophic loss for tenants. Our plan calls for repealing vacancy decontrol and re-regulating units that have been lost to this egregious loophole.
Stop sudden and permanent rent hikes that displace tenants from their homes:
Protect preferential-rent tenants: A preferential rent is a discounted rent that tenants pay when the legally registered rent exceeds what a landlord can charge in the market. But this discounted rent can be quickly snatched away when their lease expires, leading to sudden and permanent rent hikes. These rent hikes, often hundreds of dollars, accelerate gentrification by forcing tenants to give up their homes and move. Preferential rents should last for the duration of the tenancy. This also means that all rent increases would be based on the amount that a tenant pays when they move into their apartment.
Eliminate major capital improvements: Under our current system, landlords that upgrade building systems are able to pass the cost of those repairs onto tenants forever. However, many of these building systems repairs are necessary after years of neglect, and landlords often overstate the cost and extent of renovations. We would ban landlords from passing the costs of maintaining and upgrading their investments onto tenants.
Eliminate the corporate takeover of housing, and give tenants’ power over where they live:
Stop rewarding tenant harassment: Under rent stabilization, landlords receive a 20 percent “vacancy bonus” rent increase every time an apartment becomes vacant. This gives landlords a big incentive to harass and evict people from the place they’ve called home for years. When an apartment becomes vacant, landlords can increase rent even more through unnecessary and often fraudulent “individual apartment improvements.” These cause rents to skyrocket, and eventually take apartments out of regulation altogether. We would end the vacancy bonus and permanent rent hikes for individual apartment improvements.
Right of first refusal: As predatory-equity companies buy up manufactured-housing communities, state law should give residents the right to purchase them trailer parks they go on the market.
Tenants’ right to take legal action: When tenants don’t pay their rent, landlords are quick to take them to court for eviction proceedings. But tenants don’t have the same options when landlords aren’t making repairs. They should have the ability to take landlords to court for bad conditions and neglect.