Rent Reform Rally Tomorrow at Harlem State Office Building

Bennett Baumer Sep 30, 2008

City-wide tenant groups will make the case for wide ranging rent reform tomorrow at a rally at the Harlem State Office Building Plaza starting at 5:30pm. The state office complex is located at 163 West 125 Street, just east of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (7th Avenue).


The date of the protest is significant as October 1 is the first day that the Rent Guidelines Board’s (RGB) steep new increases kick in for over one million rent stabilized lease renewals. Calling itself the Real Rent Reform Campaign, tenant groups are pushing four sweeping rent reform bills in the state legislature.


For info on the Real Rent Reform campaign:




1)      Repeal vacancy decontrol – do away with the landlord’s ability to deregulated rent stabilized apartments by evicting tenants and adding 1/40 of the costs from the work of remodeling apartments onto the rent. Once the rent goes over $2,000 per month, the apartment is deregulated. With the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan $3,481, vacancy decontrol is the landlord’s linchpin in the slow phase out of affordable rent stabilized housing. Tenants and Neighbors estimate that since 1993 almost 100,000 stabilized units have been decontrolled.


2)      Home rule over rent and eviction laws for New York City – this is a good governance issue as currently the state legislature has power over rent and eviction laws and upstate Republicans and conservative Democrats with no rent regulated tenants have the power to gut the city’s rent laws. These same upstate politicians take New York City real estate money but are not electorally accountable to the city’s over two million stabilized tenants. According to the Met Council on Housing, the real estate industry gave over $10 million in state campaign donations mostly to republican election committees.


3)      Reform of the RGB – The RGB’s chair, Marvin Marcus is an investment banker at Goldman Sachs while many of the so-called public members are tied into the real estate and development industry. The campaign seeks to restore balance to a system stacked in the favor of landlords.


4)      Rent stabilization for former Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 housing – many landlords who received large tax breaks or public land to building Mitchell-Lama housing are paying off their mortgages to opt out of the affordable housing program and go market rent. Mitchell-Lama buildings were built in the from the 1950s-1970s as affordable rental and coop apartments for working and middle-class New Yorkers. The campaign would see stabilization status for Mitchell-Lama buildings that opt out of the affordable housing program built prior to 1974.


The campaign eyes a Democratic take over of the state senate as key in winning any progressive reform of the rent laws.  In June, in spite of the beginnings of a souring economy, the RGB saw it fit to award landlords increases of 4.5 and 8.5 percent for one and two year lease renewals. The RGB went further, enacting a flat $45 or $85 (or the percentage increases if higher) for stabilized tenants who have lived in their homes for more than six years.

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