Bill would end rent increases tied to capital improvements

21 Sep, 2018

By: Kenneth Lovett  For Daily News Aug 29, 2018

ALBANY — In a move they say will protect tenants, two state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would prohibit rent increases tied to major capital improvements.

Instead, the bill introduced by Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Queens) would offer building owners tax credits to offset the costs of major upgrades.

Under the bill, if the Major Capital Improvements program is repealed, tenants would be able to petition to have their rents lowered to pre-improvement levels.

The bill as written would allow for rents to be lowered to levels from before the program was put in place in the 1970s. When asked about it, Gianaris said the language will amended to limit rent reductions to a 10-year lookback period.

“Too many tenants are priced out of their homes because of (major capital improvements) whose only improvement seems to be the landlord’s bottom line,” Gianaris said. “All New Yorkers deserve high quality, affordable homes and our proposal brings us closer to that goal by ensuring repairs are made without burdening tenants with unreasonable costs.”

Under the Major Capital Improvements program, owners who install new things like windows, boilers, and roofs to rent stabilized or controlled apartments can increase the rents to recoup the costs by as much as 6% a year.

But critics note the rent increases remain in place even after the owners recoup the entire costs of the project.

Barnwell said since it was enacted, the program has led to hundreds of millions of dollars in rent hikes on regulated tenants that ultimately serve to push middle to low income residents out of their homes.

“Under our legislation, landlords will not be able to increase tenants’ rents due to repairs/improvements the landlord should already have made,” Barnwell said.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, vehemently opposes the bill, group spokesman Frank Ricci said.

“It’s ridiculous,” Ricci said.

Not only is the city’s rental housing stock in good condition, but half the units are over 75 years-old, he said.

“The only way to preserve the existing housing is to keep putting money back in and rehabbing,” he said.

Tax credits offer no guarantees landlords will recoup their capital improvement payouts, Ricci added.

Ivan Contreras, of Woodside on the Move, said his group recently held a public meeting on the issue that has attracted more than 500 tenants who support the effort.

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