Senator Serrano Fights For Affordable Housing In Our Communities

José M. Serrano

May 16, 2008

The Senator participated in a rally last night, organized by Housing Here and Now, at St. Jerome's Church in the South Bronx. In front of a standing-room audience of housing advocates community members, he discussed his vacancy-decontrol legislation.

This vital piece of legislation to protect rent-regulated apartments is part of his continued efforts to fight for affordable housing in the 28th State Senate District. The bill was introduced in conjunction with Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries.
Under current law, every time a rent-regulated apartment goes vacant, the landlord is given the option of raising the rent by up to 20%. In fact, this 20% hike can happen several times over the course of just a single year.
Once the rent hits $2,000, the apartments become market rate. This is known as "vacancy de-control."
The Senator's bill eliminates the 20% provision. In so doing, it would significantly reduce the number of apartments that are eligible for de-control each year. It would also create less incentive for landlords to harass tenants and pressure them to vacate their rent-controlled apartment.
"Housing has fallen victim to the speculative desires of investment banks and hedge funds," said the Senator. "We are approaching a point where buildings are seen as more valuable than the residents living inside of them."

"It is becoming more expensive to live in this city every day," said the Senator. "In order to preserve the diversity and vibrancy of our neighborhoods, we must reaffirm our commitment to good housing policy and enforcement mechanisms that keep people in their homes."
The affordability crisis is only made worse by the upsurge of private equity investments in the city's affordable housing stock. According to the New York Times, private equity firms have acquired nearly 75,000 rent-regulated apartments in recent years.
The firms make no secret of their desire to move apartments out of rent regulation, and vacancy rates at buildings controlled by private equity are far higher than the city average.
"I will not sit idle as billionaire investors play financial games with the working class neighborhoods of this city," said the Senator.
The Senator added that he continues to advocate on many fronts, including efforts to keep Mitchell Lama buildings in the state-subsidized program, and to ensure that our city, state and federal government re-affirm their commitment to public housing.