At a hearing of the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings on 3/19/18 for renewal of the city’s rent laws, TA president Susan Steinberg gave this testimony:
Speaker Johnson, Housing Committee Chair Cornegy, members of the Housing Committee, thank you for supporting the renewal of city rent laws and the strengthening of state and city rent laws by closing loopholes. I am Susan Steinberg, President of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, and we support Resolution 188-A and Intro 600-A.
STPCV contains approximately 11,230 units and 28,000 residents. In 1947, it was built as a community for people of moderate means. In 1980, my one-bedroom cost $250 per month. In 2018, despite rent regulations, a one-bedroom starts at $3,156. Figuring 30% of one’s income for rent, one must earn $126,240 to afford that one-bedroom. That’s not moderate. New York City’s average annual salary is $68,883. Our cost of living is 129% higher than national average.
So how did a rent-regulated community get from moderate to market? Through vacancy deregulation, through weakening of rent laws every time they come up for renewal in Albany, and through loopholes—vacancy bonuses, preferential rents, and lots of major capital improvements that we pay for in perpetuity—loopholes that are bleeding our community, the city, and the state of regulated renters.
To afford the rent in Stuytown today, tenants double or triple up and leave at renewal as rents rise. Two thousand units turn over every year, providing a big opportunity for a 20% vacancy bonus. That, plus multiple MCIs we pay for till death push rents to exceed the $2,700/month deregulation benchmark.
To ease the turnover burden and sting of market rates, management offers preferential rents. Forty percent of our renters are preferential. The difference between the preferential and legal rents can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Most renters don’t understand that the landlord is allowed to raise the rent all the way up to the legal rent on renewal. The Tenants Association gets the calls from tenants suffering from sticker shock when their monthly rent increases by, say, $500.
Renters are at a disadvantage. Owners don’t worry every three years about whether they will have a roof over their heads. Resolution 188-A and Intro 600-A must be passed and rent laws strengthened to ensure that housing for hundreds of thousands of tenants is a right, not a luxury.
Thank you, Council Members, for the opportunity to testify.