NY Lawmakers May Aim for Status Quo in Housing Debates

ALBANY (AP) -

With Albany still reeling from corruption scandals and time running out on the legislative session, it’s looking less likely that state lawmakers will overhaul New York City’s long-standing rent regulations or a tax break for real estate developers.

Changes have been proposed for both laws, which expire next month, but many lawmakers say the most practical option may be to simply renew the laws essentially as is, with only minor tweaks.

“We’re probably just going to have an extension,” Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Long Island) said last week during a debate on rent control.

That reflects an emerging consensus among lawmakers interviewed by The Associated Press and comments made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said “at a minimum” both laws must be extended.

“Albany has a lot going on right now,” the Democratic governor said late last month. “To have these finer negotiations on these delicate points is going to be problematic this year.”

Rent control and the tax break have huge impacts on the New York City housing market, and they’re touchy for lawmakers in any year because the real estate industry is one of the biggest political donors in Albany. On the other side, tenant advocates and liberal groups have organized big rallies in New York and Albany to denounce the tax break and urge lawmakers to strengthen rent control.

The tax break was created decades ago during a much different real estate climate in New York City as a way to spur redevelopment. In exchange for the incentive, developers building in certain areas must incorporate affordable units.

Critics say the tax break, which cost New York City more than $1 billion last year, is no longer needed. The real estate industry argues the tax break is essential to efforts to keep New York affordable.

The rent rules regulate the rents paid by more than 2 million New York City residents. Landlords chafe under the rules, but supporters say they ensure that low- and middle-income residents can afford to live in the city.