Espada's Rent Freeze Bill a "Trojan Horse": Opponents

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr., a Bronx Democrat, is getting push back over a new rent bill.

    A state Senate bill being considered this week would freeze the rent for low- and moderate-income households in rent-subsidized apartments in New York City.

    But the bill has opponents -- specifically tenants groups who say the measure, put forth by State Senate majority leader Pedro Espada, will actually work in the favor of landlords.

    Espada's rent relief assistance program would freeze the rents of nearly 300,000 households in all five boroughs. By the 10th year of his proposal, the rent for a third of the city's 1 million rent-stabilized apartments would be frozen for a decade.

    The goal is to maintain affordable housing for working and middle-class residents in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Espada and supporters said.  Renters making up to $45,000 a year in a household could be eligible.

    But critics say it will allow landlords who had improperly removed apartments from rent stabilization to keep those units at market rates, The New York Times reported.

    “At a minimum, he’s trying to protect the landlords from having these apartments put back under rent regulation,” said Michael McKee, a tenants’ advocate. “It’s a landlord bill posing as a tenant bill," he told the Times.

    Perhaps worse, the new bill would nullify the terms of a recent Court of Appeals ruling involving bankrupt Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, whose renters sued the complexes owners for improperly changing rents to market rate. The ruling, widely seen as a victory for tenants rights, is expected to affect up to 80,000 apartments in Stuy-Town and serve as a precedent around the city.

    Protesting yesterday outside City Hall, opponents of the bill held signs "Evict Espada, Protect Tenant Rights" and "Beware Of This Bill."  One called it a "trojan horse."

    The program would be funded through landlords, not city or state funds, if approved by the full Legislature and signed by Gov. David Paterson. The funding would come as a result of a recent state Court of Appeals decision that requires some major landlords that improperly collected a specific tax benefit while deregulating apartments to reimburse the city for the tax breaks.

    "Tenants with low and moderate incomes -- working poor and working families -- historically have been excluded from the safety net provided by rent relief assistance programs,'' said Espada, chairman of the Senate housing committee. The program would "expand this narrow safety net that will insulate 300,000 households from rent increases.''

    Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords and building managers, praised the bill. “You have a program here, at a time when there’s very little money for any existing programs, to fund an affordable housing program that would provide people of very low incomes the ability to remain in apartments and not pay increases to their rents,” he told the Times.