Democrats Take Control of State Senate, Cuomo Pledges to End Vacancy Decontrol
The Democrats seized control of the New York State Senate with the recent election by winning eight Republican-held seats. With the victory, Democrats have a decisive majority in the state Senate. Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins is expected to become the Senate majority leader, making her the first woman to lead either legislative chamber and the first black woman to lead the Senate.
The win comes before the state’s rent laws are set to expire in June 2019. Democrats are seeing their victory as an opportunity to pursue reforms that historically have been blocked during Republican Senate control. Among the issues housing advocates have sought to close or amend include vacancy decontrol and bonuses, preferential rent, and major capital improvements. Many of the progressive newcomers ran on platforms to reform the rent laws and, in particular, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated in a WNYC radio interview that he would sign a law to end vacancy decontrol if it passes the legislature.
In the interview, Cuomo stated, “One of the big pieces in an affordable housing program is going to be a reform of the rent regulations. It doesn’t provide additional units of affordability to the extent we need. I still believe in production and supply,” he added. “But reforming the rent-regulation system, especially vacancy decontrol, can make a major difference.”
This follows statements made during his primary campaign, in which Cuomo’s team said he would seek to end vacancy decontrol. The governor’s team also indicated he would seek to limit the costs landlords can pass on to tenants for capital improvements and reform the policy around preferential rents.