NY labor leaders putting pressure on state lawmakers in fight of rent reform

May 13, 2019

by Denis Slattery, New York Daily News

ALBANY — Labor leaders are turning their political muscle toward the fight for rent reform.

A dozen of the state’s most powerful union bosses sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders Monday, encouraging them to enact sweeping reforms to New York’s rent regulations. They’re joining with housing advocates and tenants groups pushing for a package of bills that would establish universal rent control across the state.

Mario Cilento, president of the NYS AFL-CIO, George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and others warned that regulations are needed to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords and rising rents.

“In their homes, just like in their workplaces, our members — tenants — need protection from unfair and unreasonable rent increases, from unsafe conditions, and from retaliation,” they write. “Unstable housing is one of the key stressors for working-class families, and can lead to spiraling problems."

Lawmakers are weighing nine bills introduced in the State Senate and Assembly that would address “loopholes” that many housing advocates say have led to a drastic decrease in the number of rent-stabilized apartments in the city and allowed landlords to jack up rents. Also on the agenda is a push to allow cities in other parts of the state to enact similar stabilization regulations.

The so-called Housing Justice for All platform is the best way to protect tenants, according to the labor leaders.

It would close loopholes in the current rent laws for 2.5 million rent-regulated tenants by ending vacancy decontrol and the vacancy bonus and eliminate major capital improvement increases and individual apartment improvement increases.

The bills would also making preferential rents the legal rent for the life of the tenancy.

“We support a platform that will strengthen the rent regulation laws in New York City and its surrounding suburbs while also expanding tenant protections for nearly 5 million unregulated tenants across the state,” the union leaders write. “This would ensure that workers are able to keep more of what their labor earns, and it would make us a more equitable state moving forward, protecting our members from unjust evictions and arbitrary rent increases,”

Renters, members of the City Council and tenants rights groups from around the state plan to rally in Albany on Tuesday, giving Cuomo and elected officials a “30-Day Notice" as the city’s current rent regulations will expire on June 15.