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OUR FIGHT FOR TENANT PROTECTIONS

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR STRONGER RENT LAWS

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tenants General Assembly - Tuesday, May 1st at 5:00

Join Occupy Wall Street  for a Tenants General Assembly outside the Rent Guidelines Board.  The RGB willl be holding its preliminary vote inside as tenants tell their stories outside.
(There will be no testimony inside the hall - but you can go in to join the chanting.)


Bring your neighbor! 
Time: 5:00 PM 
Place: Outside Cooper Union's Great Hall 

Click here for a flyer.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Rents Outpacing Incomes says Comm. Service Society





Tom Waters and Victor Bach, Housing Policy Analysts of the Community Service Society testified before the 2012 Rent Guidelines Board.




Among other points:


  • Rents have soared 31% over the past 6 years.
  • Rent increases have vastly outpaced net incomes for the typical renter.
  • By 2011, 51% of low-income renters were paying at least half their incomes in rent.
Read the full testimony!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Report on Tenants PAC 's April 27 fundraiser


jazz-invite.jpg



At last evening's Tenants PAC's gathering,  a host of friends (including some folks who became friends at the event) greeted Assembly Member George Latimer - now running for State Senate in a hard Westchester district against a GOP NYC landlord.

The food was plentiful,  the music great, and the politicians progressive.  And that's the most important point that
Anderson Fils-Aime of Tenants PAC, and Senators Gustavo Rivera and Liz Krueger and candidate Latimer made:  New York City represents about 40% of the state legislators. The other 60% (including Latimer) make the difference for passing pro-tenant legislation.

We need solidly progressive candidates - unlike Pedro Espada (replaced by Gustavo Rivera) and a few others - to constitute the Democratic majority in the State Senate.  Without them, it's hard to pass good legislation.  

So even if you missed the party, please contribute to support the candidacy of George Latimer and other pro-tenant electeds:

(1) Send a check to
Tenants PAC
277 Broadway, Suite 608
New York NY 10007.

or

(2) contribute on line (one time or with a recurring contribution) at www.tenantspac.org. Donations are not tax deductible.

Really.   And then
come to the May 1st Tenants General Assembly at 5 PM with Occupy Wall Street, in front of Cooper Union's Great Hall where the Rent Guidelines Board will be holding its preliminary vote.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

May 1st - Occupy the Rent Guidelines Board

 This Friday, come to the Tenants PAC fundraiser.
 
And this May Day:

OCCUPY the RGB!

The Rent Guidelines Board's Preliminary Hearing is
       

May 1 at 5:00 PM

at Cooper Union's Great Hall
Manhattan

                             
Tenants from around New York City are coming together for a Tenants’ General Assembly. Share your stories. Testify about rent increases. Show the Rent Guidelines Board what democracy looks like.  And tenants are also encouraged to testify inside!

Click here for one version of the flyer in English  and in Spanish   A second version is available for download here.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

US Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Harmon Case!

STATEMENT from the REAL RENT REFORM CAMPAIGN
on the SUPREME COURT'S REJECTION of
HARMON v. KIMMEL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2012
CONTACT: Doug Forand, 917-733-2763, dougforand@gmail.com




We welcome today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to review the Harmon v Kimmel case. 

From the beginning, this misguided case was based in a flawed legal interpretation of the Constitution, yet still represented a very real threat to New York's ability to continue to maintain viable working and middle class housing in a city often defined by wealth. 

Millions of New Yorkers depend on rent regulation for dependable, affordable housing, and the city depends on rent regulation to maintain stable neighborhoods and strong communities.  Rent regulated New Yorkers have a median income of just $37,000, and a court-ordered elimination of rent regulations would have immediately placed their ability to stay in the homes in danger.

Further, the Harmons' attempt to upend rent regulations would have set a dangerous precedent for all housing regulations, such as zoning, fire codes and more.  This decision properly respects the right of elected legislators to make such decisions.

For more background information about the Harmon case, please click here.

Tenants PAC Fundraiser & Live Jazz - Fri., April 27


You can meet Assembly Member George Latimer at Friday's event.  He will be running for  an open State Senate seat against a Republican New York City  landlord.  


Help Tenants PAC raise the maximum to  support A.M. Latimer and other pro-tenant candidates!

Buffet dinner and great jazz!

Time: 7 PM
Place: Musician's Union, Local 802, 322 West 48th St. (between 8th and 9th Avenues) in Manhattan

Click here for the flyer to post in your building


You can send your contribution to 

Tenants PAC 
277 Broadway, Suite 608
New York NY 10007

Or you can make contributions (including recurring ones) at www.tenantspac.org. Donations are not tax deductible.

RSVPs requested but not necessary!

Email RSVPs to action@tenantspac.org or call (212) 577-7001.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Great Rally for Rent Controlled Tenants

Photo by Louis Cholden-Brown
On April 20, 2012, rent controlled tenants, their advocates - led by Tenants & Neighbors and the Real Rent Reform Campaign - and neighbors formed a large semi-circle in front of  Goddard-Riverside's senior center to push for passage of A1892-A/S5699.  Tenants spoke, sang,* and applauded the bill, its sponsors, and all those working for it.  Click here for a video of some of the rally. 




WHY THE BILL IS NECESSARY
Rent controlled tenants now get an automatic rent increase of 7.5% - plus fuel cost increases and all those increases of other rent-regulated tenants like permanent Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) and landlord hardship increases (if the owner is making under about 8% profit per year). The original purpose was to raise rent controlled rents to the same level as rent stabilized rents - but now they're rising higher: their rents have gone up almost 6 times in the same period that rent stabilized rents have doubled.  


A1892-A/S5699  would get rid of the automatic increase and put rent controlled rents under the same Rent Guidelines Board that determines increases for rent stabilized tenants.  Thanks to Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Adriano Espaillat for their bill.  It has been passed by the Assembly's Housing Committee. Next: the whole Assembly, and the Senate.  Tell your state elected officials to support it!  And become part of the R3 Campaign!
____
*You can sing too.  Click here for the lyrics to "Seven and a half percent" (adapted by Katie Goldstein of Tenants and Neighbors, from the song "Seven and a half cents" from the Pajama Game).  And click here for the video of excerpts of the rally - including the song at the end. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Telling Statistics About Rent Regulation

New York City needs rent regulation for affordability, diversity, and strong communities!

According to the Furman Center's recent statistics on rent-regulated tenants,
  • About 47% of apartments in New York City were rent regulated (stabilized or controlled) in 2011. 
             Most of these apartments are outside Manhattan's core.

  • The median income of rent-regulated tenants is lower than that of their neighbors. 
  • More of the regulated tenants are elderly and have lived in their homes significantly longer than market-rate tenants.   
  • Rent-regulated tenants pay a higher percent of their income in rent than do market-rate tenants - well over 30% (the HUD standard of  a "reasonable" percentage to pay). 
  • Rent regulated tenants more ethnically diverse than market-rate tenants. 
  • Apartments are being de-regulated at a rapid rate:   Even though many owners chose to regulate their newly-built apartments (for tax benefits) in the twenty years since 1981, there were 200,000 fewer units in 2011.  
Read the report for yourself!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Harmon & RGB reform in one article



Rent Board reform push as Supreme Court delays decision on taking challenge

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 10:06 AM CDT
BY ANDY HUMM 

The U.S. Supreme Court put off, until at least April 23, a decision on whether to hear a constitutional challenge to New York City’s longstanding rent regulations.

While the prospect of a complete end to rent protections has tenants on edge and landlords salivating at the prospect of 1.1 million deregulated apartments, tenant activists and their supporters in government are plowing ahead with a proposal to reform the City’s Rent Guidelines Board — but not in time to affect the setting of this year’s annual rent hikes. That process begins with a preliminary vote on May 1 at Cooper Union (last year, the board voted 3.75 percent increases on one-year leases and 7.25 percent for two-year leases).

All nine members of the board are appointed by the mayor. The proposed state bill would not change that but would make the mayor get City Council approval for the appointees. And while the board would continue to have two tenant and two landlord representatives, the five “public members” (who rarely speak at meetings and invariably do the bidding of the mayor) could be drawn from more diverse backgrounds than those who fulfill the current requirement of having five years experience in “finance, economics or housing.

Click here for the rest of the article

Silver & Vito Lopez Support R3 Bills - Press Conference


R3 tenants in Albany as Speaker Silver and Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez speak 

News Release

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver



CONTACT:
Michael Whyland
Press Secretary
(518) 455-3888
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 18, 2012

Assembly Announces Measures to Further 
Strengthen
Rent Protections 
for Hardworking New Yorkers

Calls on DHCR to Swiftly Enact Strong Rules and Regulations
Outlined in 2011 Rent Agreement

Proposals Will Help Ensure the Economic Security of More than
a Million Households and Stabilize Neighborhoods

Building on last year's success in strengthening the state's rent laws for the first time in nearly
two decades, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Housing Committee
Chairman Vito Lopez today announced a package of bills to further expand tenant protections
to ensure that everyone has access to decent and affordable housing.


They also called on Governor Cuomo and the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to swiftly enact rules and regulations as required by last year's rent agreement to provide tenants with vital protections.


"While we were able to make some important gains last year led by Assembly Democrats, the
 facts are that we still are faced with an affordable housing crisis in New York," said Silver. "The package we are announcing today will help ensure that New Yorkers have a strong supply of rent-regulated housing for generations to come. We also intend to continue our push for the swift establishment of rules and regulations mandated by last year's historic rent agreement to give our tenants the utmost protections."


"Affordable housing is the essential foundation for all New Yorkers. In the Assembly, we have
taken critical steps to protect the rights of tenants and homeowners, ensuring that they can
remain in their homes and communities by providing rent protections and limiting owners
abilities to excessively raise rents," said Assemblyman Lopez, chair of the Housing Committee. These measures will enhance rent protections and preserve quality affordable housing for seniors and working families."


The bills in the package will help ensure the economic security of more than one million
households and the stability of neighborhoods throughout New York. They include:


A.1364-A (Jeffries) - Preferential Rent             
Disallows the practice of increasing preferential rent to the legally allowed rate when the lease is
renewed; it would allow such increases only upon vacancy.  The rent may not be increased,
however, if the vacancy is caused by the landlord?s failure to maintain a habitable residence.
Some landlords attract tenants with a low preferential rent and then increase the price beyond
the tenant?s means, forcing them out and allowing the landlord to push units out of rent regulation.



A.1892-A (Rosenthal) - Rent Control Increases from MBR system to RGB
Requires DHCR to use the same formula in determining rent increases for rent-controlled
apartments that the Rent Guidelines Board uses to determine rent increases for rent-stabilized
apartments. Many rent controlled tenants face a regular 7.5 percent increase to their rent every
year. An increase of this amount is consistently higher than those experienced by rent stabilized
tenants and tenants in market rate units.

A.2459-A (O?Donnell) -Major Capital Improvements
Requires rent surcharges authorized for major capital improvements to cease when the cost
of the improvement has been recovered. Current law grants landlords permanent rent
increases for making major capital improvements to their buildings that are necessary to
keep them habitable.

A.2593-A (Lopez) - Vacancy Rent Increase
Reduces the amount of rent increase after a vacancy from 20 percent to 10 percent of the
rent. High vacancy increases encourage landlords to strive for higher turnover in their rental units.

A.2750-A (Pretlow) -Protecting Former Mitchell Lama
Requires buildings that are removed by their landlords from the Mitchell-Lama program to
become rent-stabilized, even if constructed after 1974, which provides continuing rent and
eviction protection to the tenants in the former Mitchell-Lama buildings.  The bill also would
prohibit an owner from applying to DHCR for a rent adjustment based on the presence of
unique or peculiar circumstances. This bill would ensure that affordable housing created
through the Mitchell-Lama program continues to remain affordable.

A.2994 (Lopez) - Section 8 
Extends eviction and rent protection to those tenants living in former federal project-based
section 8 buildings, even if the building had been constructed prior to 1974.  It would ensure
that affordable housing subsidized through the Section 8 program continues to remain
affordable.

A.3033 (Lopez) - Landlord Recovery for Personal Use
Limits a building owner?s ability to recover a rent-regulated apartment for personal use.
Some landlords have used this provision in order to displace many rent-regulated tenants,
even when the landlord or the landlord?s family did not have an immediate need for the
apartment. 

A.6394-B (Kavanagh) - Rent Guidelines Board -City Council Confirmation
Requires City Council confirmation of the Mayor's appointees to the New York City Rent
Guidelines Board. It also would allow qualified individuals from other related fields to serve
on the rent guidelines board.

Silver and Lopez said the bills in the package were reported out of the Housing Committee
today and Assembly action on the entire package is expected later this session.

"Our accomplishment last year was historic, and was an important step in the right direction.
But it is incumbent on us to do much more,"said Maggie Russell-Ciardi Executive Director of
New York State Tenants & Neighbors. "Rent regulated tenants across New York City and the suburban counties are still facing unaffordable rent increases that could result in their being
displaced from their homes and communities. And every rent increase -  whether an MCI
increase, an RGB adjustment, a 7.5 percent increase in a rent controlled tenant's Maximum
Collectible Rent, or the vacancy bonus a landlord collects when a tenant has to move out
because her rent is too high- brings that apartment?s legal regulated rent closer to the
deregulation threshold. Rent regulation is an important component of New York's affordable
housing stock, but only if rent regulated housing is actually affordable to low and moderate
income people. These bills help ensure that New York's rent regulated housing will remain
truly affordable for the people who depend on it, and extend the length of time that rent regulated apartments are likely to remain in their affordability program."

-30-

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Facts Behind the Harmon Case and the U.S. Supreme Court


Mr. Harmon and his “hardship”

James Harmon’s grandparents bought the brownstone in question in 1949 for $41,000. At the time of the initial purchase, all of the apartments were subject to the old rent control law.

The brownstone is now worth at least $3 million. Since 1949 its value has risen 25 percent faster than the stock market, more than twice the increase in median home prices nationwide, and more than nine times faster than the general cost of living.

The brownstone currently contains three rent-stabilized apartments and three unregulated apartments. In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Harmon live in a spacious apartment.

In 2005 Mr. Harmon bought out his brother’s interest in the property for $1.5 million. At the time of this purchase, three of the units were rent-stabilized, which Mr. Harmon, as co-owner, certainly knew.

Who is being subsidized?

Mr. Harmon’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court claims that rent regulations force him “subsidize” his rent-stabilized tenants who he says pay 59 percent less than his market rate (unregulated) tenants.

But Mr. Harmon conveniently ignores the value brought to his property by other regulatory actions, including fire safety and building codes, landmark preservation programs, and stricter zoning regulations – all of which have created and maintained a safe and habitable city, but whose net effect has been to suppress the housing supply and thereby greatly enhance the value of existing structures.

Mr. Harmon bought his property under a regulatory system he well understood, and profits handsomely from limitations created by other regulations. If anyone is receiving a windfall from government invention, it is the Harmon family.

 Why the courts are not the proper venue
 
Virtually every act of government carries with it a shifting of benefits and burdens. Balancing the concerns of affordability, safety, environmental and cultural quality, profitability and neighborhood stability are issues best handled by democratically elected legislatures.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with this position in the past. In a unanimous decision of 2005, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in Lingle v. Chevron, involving commercial rent regulation in Hawaii, that courts are not competent to judge the economic fairness of regulatory actions and that these matters are best left to legislative bodies.

The real purpose of rent and eviction regulation

The overarching purpose of rent protection laws is not simply to protect tenants who are currently in occupancy, but to preserve a supply of affordable rental housing for the next generation of renters. Deregulation of apartments upon vacancy destroys this central feature of rent regulation.

The rent laws were never intended only to protect low-income tenants. They were designed to prevent profiteering, speculation and unjust evictions in a market where demand vastly outstrips the supply of rental housing. If New York were to ever have a vacancy rate over 5 percent, as most cities do, rent regulation would cease to be in effect.

Rent law protections allow low-income and middle-income families to remain in their homes and neighborhoods. Rent stabilization = neighborhood stabilization.

Where are rent-stabilized apartments 
and who are rent stabilized tenants?

Contrary to real estate propaganda, rent-stabilized apartments are located throughout the five boroughs. Brooklyn, not Manhattan, has the most, with 295,631 units. Manhattan is second with 264,366. The Bronx has 229,362; Queens 189,021; and Staten Island 8,461. [See new Furman Center report.

Rent stabilized tenants had a median annual household income of $37,000 in 2010, compared to $75,000 for homeowners.*  Rent burdens for rent stabilized families in New York City have skyrocketed from a median of 22 percent of income in 1970 to more than 35 percent of income in 2011.

63% percent of tenants in rent stabilized apartments are people of color and/or Spanish speaking. 

Landlord misinformation

Despite misleading information from the landlords' lobby, data and studies from many sources - including the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the New York City Rent Guidelines Board - show that in fact rent stabilization has not suppressed housing construction, reduced housing quality, or promoted housing abandonment.  And data from the New York City Department of Finance demonstrate that owners of rent-stabilized properties are doing well, with an average net operating income of 37 percent.

Click here for a downloadable print version of this page.

______
* From the NY Times:  New York City's government defines as poor "a two-adult, two-child family" household with an income no larger than $30,055 in 2010. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Supporters of RGB Reform on City Hall Steps

Tenants thronged R3's press conference with Senator Daniel Squadron, and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, sponsors of A06394/S0741, and many other elected officials (see fuller list below!)

On Monday, April 16, 2012, the Real Rent Reform campaign gathered with community leaders and elected allies to speak out about the urgent need for Rent Guidelines Board reform. R3 stood on the steps of City Hall to support S741A A6394B, a piece of legislation sponsored by Brian Kavanagh in the Assembly and Daniel Squadron in the Senate. This bill would require City Council confirmation of the Mayor’s appointees to the RGB, bringing necessary checks and balances to the system and making the appointment process more democratic.   Click on the links to see reports by:  New York Post,  New York 1,  CBS, New York Observer, and WFUV.


The bill would also make more New Yorkers eligible to serve as public members and ensure that diversified views are represented on the RGB by including new professions among those qualified for appointment. Altogether, this reform legislation would bring more accountability and better representation to a board that has suffered from dysfunction for far too long.


Dozens of tenants and advocates crowded onto the City Hall steps, including members of Tenants & Neighbors, New York Communities for Change, GOLES, CAAAV, the Cooper Square Committee, Housing Conservation Coordinators, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Pratt 
Area Community Council, UHAB, the Goddard SRO Law Project, ANHD, Legal Aid, VOCAL and many more. In addition to the bill's sponsors (Brian Kavanagh and Daniel Squadron), we 
were joined by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Council Members Jumaane Williams, Jessica Lappin and Margeret Chin, and a representative from Council Member Daniel Garodnick’s office. After the press conference, tenants joined together to chant, "Fight, fight fight!  Housing is a right!"

Specifically, the Rent Guidelines Board more professional and accountable by:
  • Making the RGB public members more qualified, with at least 5 years' experience in public service, social services, urban planning, social sciences, finance, economics or housing. 
  • Requiring the advice and consent of the City Council for all the Mayor's appointments to the board.


Next,  join us for these events: 

Tenant Mobilization in Albany

Wednesday, April 18

Meet at Tenants & Neighbors office (236 W. 27th Street)

Depart 8 AM, return by early evening

Join us in Albany to celebrate the passage of five bills
through the Assembly Housing Committee.

Rent Control Rally
Friday, April 20
Goddard Riverside Senior Center
593 Columbus at 88th Street
11:30 AM
Rally with rent control tenants and allies in support of bills A1892/S5699 to protect
rent controlled tenants from unaffordable rent increases.

Preliminary RGB Vote Rally
Tuesday, May 1
7 E. 7th Street
5 PM
Join tenants and allies to rally outside the Rent Guidelines Board’s preliminary vote,
and demand that the RGB be held accountable to tenants.  


Click here for a copy of this full page flyer of events.New

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Join us at these events





RGB Reform Rally and Press Conference
Monday, April 16
City Hall
10:45 AM
Join tenants, elected officials, and allies at a press conference calling for
Rent Guidelines Board reform: make the RGB more accountable!

Tenant Mobilization in Albany
Wednesday, April 18
Meet at Tenants & Neighbors office (236 W. 27th Street)
Depart 8 AM, return by early evening
Join us in Albany to celebrate the passage of five bills
through the Assembly Housing Committee.

Rent Control Rally
Friday, April 20
Goddard Riverside Senior Center
593 Columbus at 88th Street
11:30 AM
Rally with rent control tenants and allies in support of bills A1892/S5699 to protect
rent controlled tenants from unaffordable rent increases.

Preliminary RGB Vote Rally
Tuesday, May 1
7 E. 7th Street
5 PM
Join tenants and allies to rally outside the Rent Guidelines Board’s preliminary vote,
and demand that the RGB be held accountable to tenants.  


Click here for a copy of this full page flyer of events.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Supreme Court unlikely to overturn rent laws

Quoting the New York Law Journal,  the Real Deal says that landlord Harmon is unlikely to get the Supreme Court to overturn rent regulation in New York.

Supreme Court unlikely to sympathize with UWS landlord fighting rent-stabilization
January 04, 2012 09:00AM
Though courts on all levels have routinely upheld rent stabilization laws, and despite the fact that his own case has been dismissed by two state courts, James Harmon has caught the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court in his bid to fight the regulations. But according to the New York Law Journal, Harmon isn’t any more likely to win his case than previous challengers – even after the Supreme Court requested the city file a response explaining the courts’ aforementioned dismissals.  
Click here for the rest of the article.  (The NY Law Journal article is only available by subscription.)

The NY Law Journal cited tenant attorneys Timothy Collins, former executive director of the Rent Guidelines Board, and William Gribben, and landlord attorney Jeffrey Turkel of Rosenberg & Estis, stating it was unlikely the Supreme Court would accept Harmon's case because
  • The purpose of rent regulation is not to provide affordable housing to the needy but "to control profiteering in a market that is plagued with chronic housing shortages."  (Tim Collins)
  • It is the Legislature's role to determine whether a housing emergency exists. (Tim Collins)
  • Rent regulation is not a "taking."  (Billy Gribben).  That exists where the property owner complains the loss of the entire investment - but here Harmon seems to be arguing that he can't maximize the return on his investment. That's not enough, according to another landlord lawyer. 
  • The Supreme Court has already permitted rent regulation in other contexts for decades, and to overturn state legislation would make the Court more "activist." (Billy Gribben)