Thursday, February 16, 2006

Defending Rent Control

The triennial fight to preserve rent control in New York CIty is gearing up, the NY Sun reported today (subscription required):
Citing an ongoing "housing emergency," the City Council intends to renew for another three years the city's soon-to-expire rent control and rent stabilization laws.

A bill extending the laws until 2009 was introduced by several sponsors yesterday and is likely to win approval before the existing statutes expire on April 1. In passing the measure, the council would be exerting its limited power over the city's rent laws. The limitations are a source of increasing frustration for many members, including the new speaker, Christine Quinn.

"We do not have full power over our housing laws, but we do play a very important and central role as it relates to renewing rent protection laws," Ms. Quinn said yesterday on the steps of City Hall. Surrounding the speaker were several council colleagues and hundreds of tenants pushing for continued rent control.

The introduction of the bill comes less than a week after an official survey found that the city's rental housing stock was crowded enough to qualify as a "housing emergency," allowing the city to extend rent laws determined by the state. Ms. Quinn said that despite the council's limited authority, she wanted to "send a clear message" that rent laws would not be weakened under her watch.

Earlier this month, Ms. Quinn signaled that the council would try to step up pressure on Albany to give the city "home rule" by repealing the 1971 law handing the state jurisdiction over the city's rent laws. The council will likely send an official legislative request to Albany after passing resolutions on the issue in recent years. A bill repealing the "home rule" law has passed the state Assembly, where Democrats have the majority, each year since 1997 before stalling in the GOP-controlled Senate.

"It's a scandal, and it's high time it changed," the treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, Michael McKee, said.

Michael McKee is absolutely right. And it's time for a plan to win Urstadt repeal once and for all.

Do folks have thoughts on a real game plan?

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