The Assembly Majority began this year with a mission. The mission is to begin rebuilding the ladder that generations of New Yorkers have climbed to reach middle-class financial security.
Today, we are here to discuss an important rung on that ladder - affordable housing - and specifically, how to keep tenants in their homes and in their communities.
Last year, when the laws that keep housing affordable for more than one million New Yorkers were set to expire, the men and women of the Assembly Majority took a stand.
Thanks to our perseverance, to the hard work of tenant advocates across our state, and to the assistance of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the rent laws were not merely renewed, but strengthened for the first time in twenty years.
Given that New York is facing an affordable housing crisis, this was a crucial victory, but as I said at the time of the agreement, it was but one step in our collective commitment to easing the burdens on working families.
Today, I am pleased to announce that the Assembly Housing Committee has reported a number of bills that will enable us to build on last year's successes and will help to ensure that New York continues to have a good supply of rent-regulated housing for generations to come.
Joining me in support of this package of "tenant protection" legislation is the distinguished Chair of the Housing Committee, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who is a tireless fighter on behalf of New York's tenants and affordable housing in New York.
With us are many of the Assembly Majority sponsors of our legislation.Also here to support us are:
Maggie Russell-Ciardi, Katie Goldstein and Sam Stein of Tenants and Neighbors;
Ellen Davidson and Robert Desir of the Legal Aid Society;
Stephanie Barreto of Housing Conservation Coordinators;
As well as Sandra Park and Daniel Parcerisas of the Goddard-Riverdale SRO Law Project.
Close the preferential rent loophole;
Make rent increases for major capital improvements temporary;
Reduce the vacancy bonus;
Limit a building owner's ability to recover a rent-regulated apartment for personal use;
Reform the Rent Guidelines Board;
Extend eviction and rent protection to those tenants living in former federal project-based Section 8 buildings;
Require buildings that are removed from the Mitchell-Lama program to become rent stabilized, even if constructed after 1974;
And require the DHCR - the Division of Housing and Community Renewal - to use the same formula to determine rent increases for rent-controlled apartments that the Rent Guidelines Board uses to determine rent increases for rent-stabilized apartments.
We continue to have an affordable housing crisis in New York. This legislative package will help alleviate the pain of this crisis. As a state, we must not ignore this problem any longer.
Let me make one additional point.
Laws are only as good as our ability to enforce them. Last year's rent law agreement required the promulgation of rules and regulations regarding enforcement of these laws.
We are pleased that the Governor and the DHCR have been proactive in dedicating staff for the purpose enacted last year. This unit has the potential to stop violations of the rent laws by certain landlords. We look forward to working with the tenant advocates and with Deputy Commissioner White to ensure this unit is as effective as possible.
However, establishment of a unit to oversee enforcement does not eliminate the need for rules and regulations. We intend to push for the swift establishment of these rules and regulations, to give our tenants the utmost protection.