Assembly controller Shelly Silver declared this week that 2009 would be “the year of the tenant”
Silver’s proclamations aside, there’s a lot state government can do to help the rent-paying classes downstate. On top of the list, says David King in a Gotham Gazette piece, would be to pass a bill that would stop landlords from being able to remove rent regulation on vacant apartments where the rent has reached $2,000 a month.
Proponents of the bill say current law encourages landlords to harass tenants and take other measures so that they will vacate their apartments, and gives landlords an incentive to falsely inflate the pricetag on renovations to raise the value of a home. More than 50,000 rent-regulated apartments were lost between 2005 and 2008 because of this, says the group Tenants and Neighbors.
A number of other assembly bills that could be make life easier for us renters: One would increase penalties for landlords who harass their tenants. Another would limit the ability of landlords to claim apartments for the use of their family, like the hipster couple in Brooklyn who cleared out long-time tenant’s to make room for a child’s playroom.
Rent activists who were looking forward to a new Democratic majority in the state senate are feeling upset now, King writes, because in a sweep of political maneuvering common to Albany, Manhattan housing activist Liz Krueger was bumped from the chairmanship of the Senate housing committee in favor of the ex-boxer from the Bronx, Pedro Espada. In 2005, Espada’s three closest aides plead guilty in 2005 to steering public health care funds into Espada’s political campaigns.
Known as a member of the “gang of three,” Espada was forced to pull back $745,000 in health care grants that he had routed to his own health care clinics.