- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Bill de Blasio told a Harlem rally Saturday that Albany legislators must vote to protect affordable homes or doom the housing future for 2 million New Yorkers who rely on government protection from landlords.

“It’s decision time,” de Blasio told about 200 people who gathered outdoors to hear various political and religious leaders call for tougher rent control laws as a response to those legislators who say an unregulated market would be better for most residents in the long run. Current city rent control laws expire June 15.

“If they do the right thing, they will help to keep this a city for all,” de Blasio said. “If they do the wrong thing, they will damn thousands and thousands of New Yorkers to be displaced and not have an affordable place to live.”

Rent control laws have been in place for decades, and the state Assembly voted last month to extend and strengthen the laws, though the Senate’s Republican majority was expected to oppose many of the changes.

The Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday called it a civil rights issue. He said it would be a travesty just days after the city of Los Angeles raised its hourly minimum wage to $15 if New York City “leaves the tenants swinging in the wind.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there’s no chance that will happen.

In an op-ed piece in Saturday’s editions of the Daily News, Cuomo said he will call legislators into session every day until they strengthen and extend tenant protections. He noted that fewer than half of New York City’s 3.4 million housing units are rent stabilized and only 1.2 percent are rent controlled.

Cuomo and de Blasio seemed in agreement on major aspects of what is needed to restore affordable housing in a city where the mayor said 56 percent of New York City residents struggle to pay rents in neighborhoods where thousands of rent-controlled apartments have been lost.

Both urged legislators to eliminate rules letting landlords raise rents to market prices when a tenant leaves or use major capital improvements to artificially boost an apartment’s rental value.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat, called for a moratorium on the construction of luxury housing in the city.

“Why … are we giving tax breaks for luxury housing when we don’t need it?” he asked the Harlem crowd.

Several days ago, state police in Albany arrested 55 people including some state lawmakers during a demonstration at the State Capitol calling for stronger rent control laws. Supporters say they are vital to protecting affordable housing and a healthy mix of residents in neighborhoods; critics say the laws keep some rents artificially low, forcing owners to raise prices on uncontrolled apartments and ignore necessary repairs to make up the loss.

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