Sound and Fury in Albany

Headlines featured¬† rent regulation and 421a plans all week as the June 15th expiration of current laws approached, but the news was more about political maneuvering than substance. The funniest non-event was Gov. Cuomo’s hastily called and more quickly abandoned pro-tenant rally…no one would come even though he tacked to the left on prevailing wage for 421a. Just to rub it in, Mayor de Blasio called a similar rally tomorrow with Assembly Housing Chair Keith Wright, who supports the Mayor’s rent regulation proposals but introduced his own bill for prevailing wages on 421a projects in opposition to the Mayor. Adding to the strange bedfellows, Republican State Sen. Jack Martins of Mineola introduced another prevailing wage bill, probably related to his chairmanship of the Labor Committee.

Just so everyone understands what prevailing wages would do to construction costs, NY YIMBY published a chart on why public construction projects in the City cost almost twice as much as private jobs. A carpenter, for example, earns an average wage of $32.32 an hour or $90,206 a year vs. a union carpenter with “prevailing wages” who makes $195,478.

Meanwhile, HUD is accepting comments on a proposed rule that could dramatically lower Section 8 voucher rents in most of the City by switching from a metropolitan area rent to a small area rent defined by zip code. The 2015 FMR is $1481 for a two bedroom. Under the proposal, rents in Manhattan would range from $1,000 for two bedrooms in zip 10039 to $2,170 in zips such as 10024 or 10019. The highest two bedroom rent in the Bronx would be 1,450 in 10471 and the lowest would be $1,030 in 10475.

A Civil Court case reported this week encapsulates just about everything wrong with rent regulation and the courts. In Goodman v. Harris, the “landlord” is a rent stabilized tenant who began trying to terminate her lease with a roommate¬† a year ago. Apparently, the roommate moved in with a few pet pigeons, up to twelve at one point, along with their cages and assorted garbage.¬† The roommate also refused to pay rent, claiming harassment by the tenant/landlord. Ultimately, the court found that the tenant/landlord was the one being harassed, but that the tenant was also overcharging the roommate under the rent regulations. The resolution is that the roommate can pay a lesser amount and stay, presumably pigeons and all.

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