Thursday, January 24, 2013

STOP S.2320 in the NYS ASSEMBLY!

The NY State Senate has just passed S.2320-2013a bill that gives tax breaks to owners with virtually no protection for tenants.  

Now it goes to the Assembly - where Speaker Sheldon Silver had promised last year there would be 
NO tax breaks for owners without more protections for tenants.  

Let's STOP THIS "BIG UGLY" BILL!

Urge your Assembly Member to sign Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal's letter to separate the tax breaks for condo & co-op owners from the rest of the bill, and protect tenants.  

So far, the letter has been signed by Assembly Members:

Linda Rosenthal (Manhattan) – author of letter
Alec Brook-Krasny (Brooklyn)
Marcos Crespo (Bronx)
Michael DenDekker (Queens)
Jeffrey Dinowitz (Bronx)
Rafael Espinal (Brooklyn)
Dick Gottfried (Manhattan)
Alan Maisel (Brooklyn)
Joan Millman (Brooklyn)

Text of Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal's letter to Speaker Silver: 



Dear Speaker Silver:

We write with respect to the J-51 program, a tax exemption and abatement program for landlords that expired on December 31, 2011. We believe that in its current form, the J-51 program should not be renewed unless its renewal is tied to the passage of substantial tenant protections, such as stronger rent and eviction protection laws. With the economy still sputtering and a vacancy rate hovering just above 3%, it is imperative that we seize the opportunity presented by the renewal of the J-51 program to reform it and confer critical protections upon rent-regulated tenants.

The J-51 tax incentive program began in 1955 as a means by which to help landlords maintain their premises in a habitable condition. Over the years, however, the program has been used
increasingly to subsidize improvements to luxury and market rate housing. In fact, a June 2012 analysis conducted by the Citizens Housing & Planning Council found that over the last 10
years, more than half of the $257 million in benefits awarded annually through the program went to subsidize improvements to market rate housing.

We have serious reservations about the ability of the J-51 program as currently structured to preserve affordable housing. Working-class families and seniors struggling to provide for
themselves and their children rely upon us to ensure that New York City and the entire downstate suburban region remains an affordable place for them to live. The J-51 program must be reformed so that the scarce City resources allotted to it will be properly used to preserve affordable housing.

Last year, the City of New York proposed significant reform of the J-51 program to ensure, among other things, better targeting to affordable housing and that the subsidies support only
necessary repairs. The City proposed to eliminate cooperatives and condominiums from eligibility unless they are government regulated, such as Mitchell-Lama and HDFC low-income
coops. Additionally, the City would have restricted J-51 benefits to items eligible for major capital improvement rent increases under the rent laws by eliminating benefits for cosmetic
measures. Furthermore, the City proposed to utilize the savings to increase J-51 benefits to buildings undertaking MCI-eligible improvements. These critical reforms were not incorporated
into A.10798 of 2012, the bill that was introduced but not voted on at the end of the 2012 legislative session.

In addition to much-needed reform of the J-51 program, any bill proposing its renewal must be tied to the passage of critical tenant protections, with a particular focus on repealing vacancy
decontrol; enhancing protections for Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 tenants when landlords exit the program; ensuring that rent increases for major capital improvements are temporary
surcharges only; closing the preferential rent and owner-occupancy eviction loopholes; capping the HASA rents at 30% of income; and reforming the New York City and suburban rent
guidelines boards.

Given the weighty issues raised, the reform and renewal of the J-51 program should be considered separately from the renewal of other tax abatement programs, namely the renewal of the cooperative and condominium tax abatement program. Many of us heard from anxious constituents throughout the summer and fall about the need for the Legislature to renew the
program, and we need to respond quickly to their concerns.

With your leadership, the Assembly has passed many bills to codify some of the aforementioned tenant protection reforms; unfortunately, these initiatives have all failed in the Senate. The tenants of this city cannot wait any longer for us to close statutory loopholes that allow their landlords to charge market rate rent despite participation in the J-51 program and to deregulate affordable units. As gentrification pushes deeper in all five boroughs and suburban counties, the need to preserve existing affordable housing stock takes on an even greater urgency; we must take action now.

Thank you for your consideration of these crucial matters.

Sincerely,
Hon. Linda B. Rosenthal
Assembly District 67
Other Signatories