- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The New York state Assembly voted on Tuesday to extend and strengthen New York City’s rent stabilization rules - establishing a negotiating position for the looming debate about whether to modify the longstanding regulations when they come up for renewal next month.

More than 2 million residents in and around New York City live in more than 1 million rent regulated apartments. The Democratic lawmakers in the state Assembly say strengthening the rules is a major priority - though the Senate’s Republican majority is likely to oppose many of the changes.

The proposal would extend the law another four years, restrict rent increases in vacant apartments and repeal a provision in the current law allowing some apartments to be deregulated when they become vacant. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx and other top Democrats say rent control is essential for people of all income levels.

“The fate of so many is being held in our hands,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Harlem Democrat and chairman of the Assembly’s Housing Committee. “This is a defining moment … the very fabric of our city is in jeopardy.”

Senate Republicans have not offered a counterproposal. The details of a compromise will be negotiated in the coming weeks as lawmakers work toward the end of their annual session. The rent regulation law expires June 15.

Last week, Senate Leader John Flanagan identified rent control as a key issue that deserved careful attention. The renewal of the regulations could be tied to the extension of a cap on property taxes. The Senate voted Tuesday to make the cap permanent.

Rent stabilization initiatives were created decades ago as a way to prevent longtime residents from being priced out of their neighborhoods. Similar programs are in place in Westchester, Nassau and Rockland counties. Supporters say they are critical to protecting quality of life, but landlords and other critics say the rules keep rent artificially low and force owners to charge more for unregulated apartments and forgo improvements.

“If rent control works then why aren’t they in effect in every big city in America?” Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Rensselaer County, asked during Tuesday’s floor debate. “Price controls do not work. You’re hurting the people you’re seeking to help.”

The unofficial vote in the Assembly was 97 to 40.

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