Albany must prevent misguided NY housing laws from plunging Bronx back into dangerous past

With city housing facing increased challenges, 32 BJ SEIU building workers have voted to strike on April 30 if the Bronx Realty Advisory Board decides to reopen their labor contract that is a year old. This strike could affect 1,400 supers and other maintenance staff across 430 buildings.

The landlord group is struggling to find ways to reduce costs due to a growing number of members facing financial difficulties, largely because of a state law that is causing more rent-regulated apartments to be taken off the market.

The Bronx, being the most vulnerable borough with high unemployment and low average income, is the first to reach a crisis level, but other boroughs may soon follow suit.

A possible solution would be for the Legislature to reconsider the 2019 rent law that has made it expensive for landlords to update newly vacant apartments and has led to a decrease in total rental income for buildings.

It costs a significant amount to renovate an apartment that has had the same tenant for a long time, and landlords used to be able to raise the rent to cover these costs until the 2019 law was passed.

Senate bill S6552C, sponsored by Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Kenny Burgos (D-Bronx), could provide relief, but it remains uncertain if progressives will support it as part of the state budget or during the session.

If the Legislature doesn’t act, the Bronx landlords group may use a clause in last year’s contract with 32BJ to reopen the agreement and reduce costs since this may be the only option available to them.

Aside from the state law, smaller landlords are facing other challenges such as high-interest rates, bank instability, high property taxes, increasing utility bills, and rising insurance costs.

Moreover, many of these landlords are struggling due to unpaid rent during the COVID eviction moratorium.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mayor Adams have both kept regulated rent increases below the rise in landlords’ costs, adding to the financial strain on these landlords.

Having units that cannot be rented out or renovated is pushing many landlords to their limits, potentially leading to financial ruin or selling to larger corporations or unscrupulous landlords, which would negatively impact remaining tenants.

If no real relief is provided by the Legislature, landlords may have to deal with the 32BJ strike as a last resort.

The history of distressed landlords in the Bronx during the 1977 World Series serves as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the need to address the current housing crisis to prevent a similar decline in neighborhoods across the city.

It is crucial to address the misguided laws in Albany that are crippling the city’s housing market, making it the most urgent issue in the state budget.

Many distressed Bronx landlords are in Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s district, highlighting the need for him to advocate for his constituents and oppose harmful laws that are negatively impacting them.

If reasonable Democrats do not take a stand in Albany, New York City’s livability for working people in all boroughs is at risk of significantly declining.

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