By Rebecca C. Lewis (City and State New York)
Before the 2018 state election cycle, universal rent control was not a common phrase among New Yorkers. When the idea gained popularity, thanks to the campaigns of progressive insurgents such as Cynthia Nixon, Jumaane Williams and Julia Salazar, it seemed to some like an ill-defined pipe-dream. But now, just two months into the state Legislative session, New York appears likely to enact at least part of the universal rent control platform.
Despite some confusion on the campaign trail, the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance, a coalition of activist groups advocating for tenant protections, has clearly laid out a universal rent platform consisting of seven pieces of legislation. Although the phrase “universal rent control” sounds like it would entail radical change to how housing works, the majority of the bills had previously been introduced in the state Legislature, and have even passed in the Assembly before. Those include bills reforming existing rent stabilization laws by ending vacancy decontrol, eliminating the vacancy bonus, making sure preferential rent lasts for the duration of tenancy and making changes to rent control increases. Each of these have already been reintroduced in the Legislature this session.