WHAT: Town Hall Meeting on Home Rule and Fair Rent Laws

WHEN: Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TIME: 7:00 to 8:30 pm

WHERE: St. Bartholomew’s Church
Park Avenue @ 51st Street
6 train to 51st St. or E, V trains to 53rd St./Lexington Ave.

M0RE INFO: For more info: Met Council on Housing 212-979-6238 or www.metcouncil.net or  active@metcouncil.net Or call Jillian at Housing Here & Now at 718-246-7900 ext. 243 or email  jillian@housinghereandnow.org or www.housinghereandnow.org

Why New York City Needs Home Rule Over Rent and Eviction Protections:
Tenants are paying high rent burdens in a shrinking supply of affordable regulated apartments, and the city has no power to change the housing policies that are making this situation worse:

• In 1970, the average tenant household paid 20 percent of income for rent. Today, the average household pays over 31 percent of income for rent. Nearly 29 percent of city tenants devote over half their incomes to rent – the highest figure ever.
• The state legislature weakened the rent laws several times in the 1990’s and again in 2003. These changes have made it easier for landlords to raise rents precipitously in low and moderate-income neighborhoods. The combination of high vacancy allowances, preferential rents and the 4 year rule has meant that tenants all over the city cannot find a vacant affordable rent stabilized apartment when they need to move. Since the first change in 1993, it is estimated that 200,000 units have been lost from regulation.
• The past decade has seen the largest increase in homelessness since the Great Depression. The number of families sleeping in city shelters has doubled since the 1980’s and children have become the largest and fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
• In 2003 alone, the real estate industry contributed 3 million dollars to upstate legislators and political action committees. None of the upstate legislators who engineered the changes in the rent laws are accountable to New York City residents suffering from this housing situation.

Loss of Affordable Housing:
New York City is currently undergoing the largest loss of affordable housing seen in recent times. Rent stabilized housing is the only affordable housing resource left to most low and moderate-income tenants. However, once they have been priced out of their apartment, rent stabilized tenants have no other options. Currently, the market for rentals and coops/condos is so strong that owners are able to ask for rents and prices well above what the median renter can afford – in every neighborhood of the city.

• 23% of the city’s 120,917 subsidized apartments were lost between 1990 and 2005; another 13% are soon to be lost;
• Within the subsidized stock, the city’s Mitchell-Lama housing has lost the most - 22,688 (over a third) apartments
• In addition, we lost over 14,000 units of rent stabilized housing in 2005
Close to 1,700 units were lost through coop/condo conversion
Over 1,700 units were lost through tax abatement expirations and substantial rehabilitations
Over 9,000 units were lost through high rent/vacancy decontrol

Affordability: The Rent Guidelines Board needs to consider the question of affordability and whether the rent increases they adopt are affordable to rent-stabilized tenants. If the Board adopts the high increases proposed at the preliminary vote, they will create further financial hardship for NYC tenants. This will only add to NYC’s housing crisis.

• Incomes of Rent Stabilized Tenants went down while rents went up
Between 2002 and 2005 stabilized rents rose by over 8% while incomes for stabilized tenants went down by 8.6% (to a median household income of $32,000) adjusted for inflation to 2004 dollars.
Rent stabilized tenants now have a gross rent-to-income ration of almost 32%
The real median hourly wage went down between 2000 and 2005 by almost 5%
• Housing conditions have worsened while rents went up
A recent city survey reveals that in 2005 over 75,000 occupied apartments had 5 or more serious maintenance deficiencies, and 110,000 apartments had experienced 4 or more heating breakdowns.
HPD currently shows 2.8 million uncorrected violations. The city’s code enforcement activities are unequal to the problem: 75% of maintenance violations go uncorrected in any given year.
While fuel costs went up, heat complaints to 311 were at record levels (during a comparatively mild winter). The city received between 30,000 and 63,000 heat and hot water complaints each month during the 2005/2006 heat season.

The Real Estate Industry:
Owners of rent-regulated housing are earning generous incomes.

• The 2004 Income and Expense data (most recent available) showed net operating incomes increased from 37.8 to 38 percent. This gain occurred despite the price index surge of 16.9 percent that year. This year, the price index of 7.8 percent is half what was in 2004.
• Owners have continued to benefit from a good lending environment despite an interest rate increase of .79 percentage point. Mortgage lenders reported to the RGB that they had experienced virtually no non-performing loans or foreclosures.

Sources: The NYC Rent Guidelines Board 2006 Reports (Income and Affordability; Mortgage Survey; Income and Expense); The 2005 Housing & Vacancy Survey; the Fiscal Policy Institute; the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, New York University, the FY2006 Mayor’s Management Report; “Inequitable Enforcement” by the Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development and the Public Advocate; “Closing the Door: Accelerating Losses of New York City Subsidized Housing” by the Community Service Society.