State Senator Espada is always an audacious soul, but his current gambit is particularly fragrant. Espada, never a fast friend of New York’s tenant class, is proposing to freeze rents for up to half a million tenants of rent-stabilized apartments, and he’s offering to pay for it by making it easier for owners to pull units out of stabilization.
According to the News, Espada is proposing to freeze rents for tenants of rent-stabilized units with incomes of less than $45,000 who are paying more than a third of their monthly income in rent. He’s proposing to do that with tax exemptions for participating landlords which he estimates will amount to $77 million in the first year. And he’s planning to find that money by allowing landlords who want out of the program to refund J-51 tax breaks from previous years.
The New York State Court of Appeals ruled last year that landlords who have accepted J-51 tax breaks are barred from pulling their properties out of rent regulation. That decision set off the default of the real estate partnership attempting to deregulate Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village and a grand mal flop sweat panic among Espada’s beloved New York landlords, speculative real estate investors, and the people who move the money around.
Espada’s Bronx constituents, among the poorest in the city, might fail to notice this wrinkle. It’s almost certain it occurred to Espada, the former Chair of the Senate Housing Committee. It’s a lock it’s occurred to his great and good friends from the Rent Stabilization Association, the main trade association for owners of rent stabilized properties, on whose behalf he spiked legislation which would have made it more difficult to remove properties from regulation last year.
It takes nads to offer to pull your constituents’ security away in an election year, but not nearly as much as it does to spin it as a favor.