By Zahnay Gates
Representative Velázquez should propose a bill to limit how much landlords can increase rent annually for market-rate units. The introduction of this bill, which protects New York tenants from massive rent hikes and rent gouging, will permit landlords to only raise the rent by 6% plus the local inflation rate per year. The introduction of this bill will show voters how housing affordability is a primary issue area of Representative Velázquez’s policy platform. This proposed bill will especially appeal to voters of Representatives Velázquez’s Congressional District 7, where most of her constituency are tenants.[i] This bill would assist Representative Velázquez in retaining her base voters and appealing to new voters as she is impacted by 2020 redistricting, which will split her loyal Latino and Asian voting communities in Brooklyn.[ii] Lastly, a bill that limits how much landlords can increase rent aligns well with the Democratic Party’s and Working Families Party’s platforms, garners essential bill sponsorship and support from leadership, and will aid in ensuring Representative Velázquez’s 2022 midterm re-election.[iii]
The proposed policy to limit how much landlords can increase rent annually will align with crucial demographic characteristics within Representatives Velázquez’s district. For Representative Velázquez, public-sector unions are one of her highest campaign contributors[iv]. Public-sector unions have an increased incentive to place affordable housing measures at the center of their quest to better the lives of American workers.[v] As wages still lag far behind the increasing costs, workers confront when renting or trying to purchase a home.v In Congressional District 7, renter-occupied housing units account for roughly 77% of all occupied housing units compared to the 23% of owner-occupied housing units.[vi] Of the 77% of tenants in this district, the three largest ethnic groups, White 50%, White (Non-Hispanic) 33%, and Hispanic or Latino origin 39%, also represent Representative Velázquez’s largest voter bases.vi The 2021 Cook Partisan Voter Index (PVI) for this district was D+34, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 34% more Democratic than the national average.[vii] This made Congressional District 7 the eleventh most Democratic nationally, with approximately 342,000 registered Democrats and 1,800 registered Working Families Party voters as opposed to the 29,000 registered Republicans.[viii]
In 2019, the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act provided comprehensive provisions that strengthen tenant protections for all New Yorkers.[ix] This bill capped security deposits up to one month of rent, limited late payment fees, fees for credit and background checks, established new protections in cases of eviction, required landlords to give advance written notice before raising rent by 5% or more, and for tenants living in rent-controlled units, the bill restricted how much a landlord can increase your rent.ix However, policies like these did not go far enough to establish the same protections for tenants in market-rate units. New York State Rent Law has no limit on how much landlords can increase rent annually for market-rate units. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighborhood a part of Representative Velázquez’s Congressional District 7, tenants have seen rent spikes around 40%, notably higher than pre-pandemic numbers.[x] The main disagreement among proposed solutions for market-rate units is the strong opposition from property owners and landlords who generally do not support such legislation.[xi] Rent-controlled or rent-stabilized legislation for them means losing profits, overlooking maintenance and remodeling, and avoiding new construction altogether.xi
Representative Nydia Velázquez should propose a bill to limit how much landlords can increase rent annually for market-rate units. Under the new legislation, landlords can only raise the rent by 6% plus the local inflation rate annually. The local inflation rate is measured by the annual consumer price index (CPI) provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.[xii] This bill should be introduced during the 2021-2023 congressional session and last ten years unless renewed by New York State lawmakers. While the new law will affect the entire state of New York, it will not supersede old statewide legislation for tenants living in rent-controlled units or tenants protected by previous rent control laws like the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019.ix The new bill will also not apply to government-subsidized units. Simply put, this proposed bill would protect tenants in market-rate units from unfair rent increases and provide affordable housing for tenants while still allowing property owners to increase rent at a regulated, fair rate.xi
The purpose of this bill is to maintain affordable housing for New York City tenants. With the median household income in Congressional District 7 being $66,891 and the most prominent employment industries being health care & social assistance and accommodation & food services, tenants of Representative Velázquez’s district would greatly benefit from this bill proposal.[xiii] [xiv] Skyrocketing rents combined with dwindling middle-class jobs and the global coronavirus pandemic have forced many residents of New York City to relocate. Representative Velázquez has consistently shown her support for tenant protection measures and has introduced numerous bills that show her commitment to securing affordable housing for working families, but past legislation has not specifically tackled this issue.[xv] [xvi] The proposal of a bill to limit how much landlords can increase rent annually is one of the best ways to spotlight Representative Velázquez as a national leader in the affordable housing fight. Only two states, Oregon and California, have enacted similar bills; hopefully, New York can be the third.[xvii]
Legislation supporting working families and middle-class families aligns with the Democratic Party’s and Working Families Party’s policy platforms. In Congressional District 7, registered Democratic voters account for roughly 73% of all voters, and Working Families Party voters account for 0.39%.viii It is in Representative Velázquez’s best interest to propose a bill that both parties support because doing so guarantees developmental resources, bill sponsorship, support from leadership, and re-election. It is important to note that recent legislation, which sought to increase tenant protection measures, has been wildly supported by democratic voters.[xviii] Therefore, Representative Velázquez must push for policies aligned with her base voters — Democratic Party and Working Families Party.
Despite being in a D+34 congressional district, Representative Velázquez is impacted by 2020 redistricting, splitting her loyal Latino and Asian voting communities in Brooklyn.ii Moving forward, appearing as an aggressive, “go-getting,” and a committed representative will go a long way in appealing to her new constituency. High rent increases are an issue that disproportionately affects minorities and low-income communities. Still, if remained unrestricted, it can have a potentially more prominent effect on all New York City communities, indiscriminate of income, race, or political affiliation. For this reason, Representative Velázquez’s bill proposal to limit how much landlords can increase rent annually may even get some potential swing voters and Republican voters to vote for her.
Zahnay P. Gates is an MPA-PNP student at NYU Wagner, specializing in Advocacy and Political Action. Zahnay aims to do policy work that ensures all citizens’ political, educational, social, and economic equality. She holds a BA in Criminal Justice from The University of Alabama.
[i] Demographic Characteristics For Occupied Housing Units. Explore census data. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?t=Owner%2FRenter+%28Householder%29+Characteristics&g=500XX00US3607&tid=ACSST1Y2019.S2502
[ii] Some Dems as well as Republicans are uneasy with new congressional map. Brooklyn Eagle. (2022, February 4). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://brooklyneagle.com/articles/2022/02/03/some-dems-as-well-as-republicans-are-uneasy-with-new-congressional-map/
[iii] Building A Stronger, Fairer Economy. Democrats. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://democrats.org/where-we-stand/party-platform/building-a-stronger-fairer-economy/
[iv] Rep. Nydia Velazquez – Campaign finance summary. OpenSecrets. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/summary?cid=N00001102
[v] Lerner, S., & Livingston, C. (2019, February 19). Why unions must bargain for affordable housing-and how. The American Prospect. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://prospect.org/labor/unions-must-bargain-affordable-housing-and/
[vi] Demographic Characteristics For Occupied Housing Units. Explore census data. (n.d.).
[vii] Wasserman, D., & Flinn, A. (2021, April 11). Introducing the 2021 cook political report partisan voter index. Cook Political Report. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.cookpolitical.com/analysis/national/pvi/introducing-2021-cook-political-report-partisan-voter-index
[viii] Enrollment by Congressional District. Enrollment Congressional District | New York State Board of Elections. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.elections.ny.gov/EnrollmentCD.html
[ix] Changes in New York State Rent Law – What You Need to Know. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/changes-in-nys-rent-law.pdf
[x] Zaveri, M. (2022, March 7). Rents are roaring back in New York City. The New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/07/nyregion/nyc-rent-surge.html
[xi] Singleton, S. (2020, April 10). Rent control vs. rent stabilization: What’s the difference? Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.apartmentguide.com/blog/rent-control-vs-rent-stabilization/
[xii] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, March 10). Consumer Price Index, New York-Newark-Jersey City – February 2022. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/regions/new-york-new-jersey/news-release/consumerpriceindex_newyorkarea.htm
[xiii] Income In The Past 12 Months (In 2019 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars). Explore census data. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?t=Income+and+Earnings&g=500XX00US3607&tid=ACSST1Y2019.S1901
[xiv] Congressional district 7, NY. Data USA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://datausa.io/profile/geo/congressional-district-7-ny
[xv] Velázquez Introduces Tenant Protection Measure. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://velazquez.house.gov/media-center/press-release
[xvi] H.R. 6556: Landlord accountability act of 2022. GovTrack.us. (2022, February 1). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr6556/text
[xvii]2021 update: How much can a landlord legally raise the rent in California? Sage Real Estate. (2021, November 21). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.sageregroup.com/2021-update-how-much-can-a-landlord-legally-raise-the-rent-in california/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20main%20reasons,basket%20of%20goods%20and%20services.
[xviii] Brand, D. (2021, October 25). NYC tenants reignite push for ‘good cause’ eviction protections, despite landlord opposition. City Limits. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://citylimits.org/2021/10/20/nyc-tenants-reignite-push-for-good-cause-eviction-protections-despite-landlord-opposition/