Protecting Over Nine Million New Yorkers From Eviction and Skyrocketing Rents
Every single New Yorker deserves a safe and stable place to live. Without the foundation of a healthy home, virtually all the other qualities that define a happy and healthy life including quality education, regular work, and access to medical care are impossible to achieve.
Too many New Yorkers can no longer afford to live in the community, town or even city where they grew up. Hundreds of thousands of black and brown families are being pushed out of the neighborhoods that they have called home for generations. Too many New Yorkers are teetering on the brink of homelessness and have to make the tough decision each month about whether to put food on the table or pay the rent check.
Rents are skyrocketing while paychecks aren’t keeping up. Nearly half of our state residents are renters, and under Governor Cuomo, New York’s renters have been left behind. So many New Yorkers are paying nearly half of their income in just rent. Rents in New York City are increasing twice as fast as wages. Across the state, low and moderate income tenants are paying more than 50% of their income on rent. For tenants, a stable and secure home means rent you can afford to pay with money left over for the basic necessities and a healthy living environment where you can raise a family without concern for your children getting asthma or lead poisoning.
As homelessness declines across the country, in New York it is on the rise. In the last eight years homelessness in New York has surged by 36% to over 89,000 people. If nothing changes, it will reach over 100,000 people by 2020.
In the last eight years, Governor Cuomo’s real estate donors have dictated housing policy in our state — and the results have been disastrous. It’s hard to do right when you’re getting millions of dollars to do wrong.
Rent Justice for All Platform
Rent stabilization laws currently apply to more than one million households in New York City, Nassau, Rockland, and Westchester Counties. These laws give families peace of mind by ensuring the right to stay in their homes with modest annual rent increases. As gentrification sweeps cities and seeps into suburbs, rent stabilization protects tenants from private equity landlords that want to take advantage of an out-of-control housing market.
But tenants’ rights are under attack. Under Cuomo, landlords are rewarded with large rent increases in exchange for evicting people from their homes. The system invites speculation and drives up housing costs. And rent stabilization only applies to certain types of housing in just eight counties statewide. Millions have no protection at all from unfair rent increases or sudden evictions.
Cynthia’s rent platform — Rent Justice for All — is the most progressive and expansive tenant protection program in the country. It will provide affordable homes to more than three million households, help to curb our state’s homelessness crisis, and prevent thousands of evictions. Here is how:
Reclaim and Protect All Units That Were Removed From Rent Stabilization
Since Andrew Cuomo took office, we have lost at least 75,000 units of rent stabilized housing. Once a stabilized apartment hits the vacancy decontrol threshold — currently set at $2,733 — the apartment comes out of the rent stabilization system and the state protections that keep that apartment affordable disappear. This creates a perverse incentive for landlords to do all in their power to raise rents, push out rent-stabilized tenants, and bring apartments into the open market.
Cynthia will work with state lawmakers to create and pass legislation to re-regulate all of the apartments that are still rentals and were lost as a result of vacancy decontrol. Legislation will also strengthen the rent registration system and will eliminate the four year limitation on a tenant’s ability to challenge a rent overcharge.
Fix The Broken Rent Stabilization Laws
In 2019, New York’s rent regulation laws are set to expire. While we do not need to wait for them to expire in order to fix them, this offers an opportunity to stop the rapid loss of affordable apartments in New York City and the surrounding areas by working with the State legislature to close five major loopholes that drive rent increases and tenant harassment. Cynthia will work with lawmakers to:
- End the vacancy decontrol loophole that eliminates tenant protections and destabilizes apartments once rent reaches $2733, as described above.
- End the vacancy bonus loophole that awards landlords up to a 20% increase in rent each time an apartment is vacated. Far too many landlords evict tenants in rapid succession abusing this loophole to drive up rents and eventually take the apartment out of rent stabilization altogether.
- End the preferential rent loophole that allows landlords to lure tenants into leases at one price, which is supposedly lower than the stabilized rent, and then dramatically increase the rent overnight. 250,000 New Yorkers households have a preferential rent and are unable to benefit from the security that rent stabilization brings. Cynthia will protect these families by preventing these landlords from raising the rent as they see fit, and instead requiring them to base all future rent increases on the current amount the tenant pays.
- Finally, Cynthia will work with the legislature to revisit the rent increases that landlords are allowed for making apartment and building-wide renovations. These loopholes, known as individual apartment improvements and major capital improvements, are riddled with exaggerated costs and lead to widespread loss of affordability. Cynthia supports making these increases temporary to both allow landlords to make repairs but also to prevent tenants from shouldering an undue and sudden rent burden. Cynthia will also will work to change the way the state housing agency reviews the extent and quality of claimed renovations before approving these kinds of adjustments.
Expand Rent Stabilization Laws Statewide to All Apartments with Six Units or More
Over two million renter households in New York State live in fear of eviction. Over 80% of low income tenants in Kingston, Buffalo, Rochester and other upstate cities have rents they can’t afford to pay — and those families have no protections whatsoever from their exploitative landlords. Cynthia will work with the state legislature to bring rent stabilization protection to tenants who do not currently benefit because they live in units built after 1974, or live outside of the eight counties (NYC’s five boroughs, Westchester, Rockland, and Nassau) where local governments are allowed to opt into rent stabilization.
Cynthia will also tackle a new problem – the mega landlords who own multiple small buildings. During the financial meltdown Wall Street speculators scooped up homes at a discount rate and created new companies that now own hundreds of thousands of houses with under 6 units. These were homes lost to foreclosure where tenants now pay high rents and have no rights. Our rent laws were not designed with this new kind of landlord in mind – so it’s time to change that. Cynthia will work with the state legislature to find solutions and pass new rent laws to protect tenants living in homes that might be smaller than 6 units but are owned by corporate landlords who own a large number of properties.
Protect Tenants from Unjust Evictions Across the State
Tenants should be protected from eviction regardless of where they live or what kind of housing they live in. Just cause legislation would cover tenants in small buildings across all of New York State that are not owner occupied, including lot rents in manufactured home communities that are increasingly vulnerable to speculation. It would prevent landlords from evicting tenants without a good reason. Also, as any tenant knows, a massive rent hike is as good as an eviction. Just cause legislation will protect tenants from unconscionable rent hikes.
Invest in Enforcing Tenant Rights
Often the only home a low-income renter can afford is riddled with unsafe conditions. Local governments have little ability to fund the inspection of units, or to make emergency repairs. Under Cuomo, housing code enforcement has been defunded and is an afterthought. Funding for Housing and Community Renewal, the state agency responsible for enforcing tenants’ rights, has declined by 62%. Cynthia Nixon will significantly increase funding for HCR in order to protect tenants’ rights and empower localities to ensure homes in New York are safe and stable.
Providing Renter Protections to Over Nine Million Renters
The Rent Justice for All Platform is the most expansive tenant protection program in the country. Just cause eviction, combined with the changes to rent stabilization, will expand renter protections to one million households in the five boroughs and one million tenants outside of New York City who currently live without any protections. This number, combined with strengthening protections for the existing one million rent stabilized apartments in NYC and the surrounding counties will result in over three million apartments and approximately nine million renters who will benefit from protections against skyrocketing rents and evictions. It will provide over three million families the security of knowing that if they demand critically needed repairs today, they won’t be facing an eviction tomorrow.
We can do this, but it won’t be easy. The real estate industry and Wall Street speculators will spend millions of dollars to try to stop these changes — they will give money to politicians on both sides of the aisle, they will buy radio and TV ads to defame our campaign and attack tenants who are demanding justice. They will attack the communities of color who are fighting to stay in the towns and cities they have called home. We must stop rewarding landlords who are who are stripping tenants of protections and pushing families out of their homes. We can’t afford not to act – because shelter and housing should be a basic right for all New Yorkers. All of us deserve a place we can proudly call our home. The time for bold action is now.