The rent is too damn high! We hear this phrase as a catch-all these days, ad nauseum, to describe New York City’s hostile housing situation. But cost of living in this city is no joke – the rent really is just too damn high for most of us. And there’s no end in sight, with rents averaging over $3,000 per month while the average income is dropping.
For some of us, it isn’t too damn high yet – the law caps the amount a landlord can increase a rent-regulated (not rent-controlled, which is completely different) apartment. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have landed some rent-stabilized digs, but you’re likely living in fear that some day soon all of it will come crashing down around you in a heap of rubble – literally – because your enterprising landlords have decided to take a wrecking ball to your building, forcing you out and enabling them to raise the rent on your place to some obscene market-level rate.
Of course, Greenpoint is no exception to any of this ludicrousness. Although rent here is not quite at Manhattan-rate levels and has not exploded with quite the ferocity as our neighbor Williamsburg, we’re feeling the squeeze – and we’re certainly not without our own share of shitty slumlord behavior. (As it stands, Greenpoint and Williamsburg basically have no regulations keeping rents from soaring at the whims of property owners looking to make huge profits – the housing situation is out of control, with the market at the wheel.)
Obviously a “sky’s-the-limit” philosophy on cost of rent is unacceptable. And certainly there should be something on the books holding landlords and property owners responsible for their reckless behavior, no?
Recognizing that the housing situation in New York City and in North Brooklyn in particular is dire, Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) has just announced a series of bills that have just been passed by the Assembly, designed to enhance and protect tenants’ rights; specifically, addressing issues such as landlord abuses and protecting rent-stabilized units are key points.
One part of the package would change the law so that sabotaging a property would be considered a criminal act, and a landlord could be charged with a felony for trashing an apartment with the intention of forcing out rent-stabilized tenants (the state has recently stepped in and issued subpoenas for such incidents).
Another, a bill targeted directly at rent regulated protection itself, prevents a unit from becoming de-regulated once it passes the current $2,50o threshold – right now, an apartment that is rent-regulated can become de-regulated once its price increases to $2,500, thus giving a landlord complete freedom to raise that rent however much he or she chooses.
The package also includes a law that would limit a landlord’s ability to recover rent-regulated units for themselves. This law would state that only one unit can be used as the landlord or owner’s primary residence, curbing the practice of unethically occupying units for the sole purpose of, again, turning substantial profits.
Finally, a bill to reduce the amount that landlords can increase a rent-stabilized unit after a vacancy has also been passed – the current law allows a 20% increase, where a 7.5% is seen as a more fair and reasonable amount.
If you’re a New Yorker, there’s a good chance you’re paying through the nose for rent right now, watching half your paycheck get gobbled up once a month in order to keep a roof over your head. The crisis is particularly evident in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, where rents are skyrocketing at an astonishing rate, and beginning to rival Manhattan’s prices.
Sure, it’s the market, the market is in control, is what you bargain for when you live in New York so tough shit, blah blah blah. Yeah, well, unfair housing practices are unacceptable. Landlords bullying their tenants and ruining lives is unacceptable. We need some laws on our side. We need help.
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*Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that a law has been passed that would reduce potential increases on all units – this has been edited to state that the law would apply to rent-stabilized units only.