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New York landlords push back on rent reform with new ad campaign

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Pro-landlord groups argue that reforming rent laws will hurt both building owners and renters

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New York’s current rent laws are up for renewal this summer, and support has been building for major reform, such as doing away with the preferential rent loophole and vacancy decontrol, which helps push apartments out of rent-stabilization after they’re vacated. A movement that started with tenants’ rights advocates is now a talking point for city and state officials, and even Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled his support for reform.

But as the expiration date for the current laws draws closer, the real estate industry is doing what it does—pushing back, and arguing that any major reform to rent regulation will have an adverse affect on both landlords and renters.

Several pro-landlord groups, including the Rent Stabilization Association and the Real Estate Board of New York, have banded together to put pressure on lawmakers and hopefully swing public opinion toward what they’re calling “responsible rent reform”—ones that “that protect tenants, but also small property owners who are already struggling to maintain their buildings,” according to a press release from the group.

In a statement, John Banks, the president of REBNY, argues that the rent reforms that have been prposed “do nothing to ease vacancy rates, make apartments more affordable or create a single new affordable unit. Instead, they threaten to put small landlords who own the majority of the city’s rent-regulated units in financial crisis and stifle the construction of affordable housing in the future.”

To underscore their point, the group will air ads on TV and roll out a digital campaign that features two NYC property owners—one the landlord of a small building with rent-stabilized units, and the other the owner of two rent-regulated properties—and how the proposed reforms will ultimately make things worse for them.

The group also argues that some of the proposals—like making rent increases tied to major capital improvements (MCI) or individual apartment improvements (IAI) temporary, rather than permanent—will make it harder for landlords to keep up with maintaining their apartments. In a section of the website titled “Facts,” the groups argue that MCIs “significantly improved the quality of the city’s rental housing stock.”

They also argue that should these reforms be implemented, the city could lose $2 billion in property taxes from rent-stabilized buildings.