Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Safeguard Rent Regulation

Two bills were introduced recently in the NY State Senate and Assembly that propose removing the vacancy rate from the criteria for rent regulation until two years after the state’s Covid-19 emergency declaration is over. The legislation, introduced by Manhattan Democrats Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, would put a pause on the official count of the city’s vacancy rate, which is completed by the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since 1974, rent stabilization has depended on a housing emergency, defined in part by an apartment vacancy rate below 5 percent. The vacancy rate has long been well below the threshold. But reports of increased vacancies as New Yorkers leave town has caused some concern that the vacancy rate could go above the threshold undermining the basis for rent regulation. The official vacancy tally, known as the Housing and Vacancy Survey, found New York had a 3.63 percent vacancy rate as of 2017. The next survey is set to be completed next year and released in 2022.