Kingston close to declaring ‘housing emergency’ as prelude to rent regulations

The Kingston Common Council is expected to begin deliberations next month on whether and how to adopt new regulations that would cap annual rent increases at some city apartments. The proposed rent stabilization rules are part of a broader effort by city officials to stem gentrification and displacement.

Mayor Steve Noble said he would send the results of a rental vacancy survey commissioned last year to the Common Council later this week. The survey is a necessary first step towards declaring a “housing emergency” in Kingston under the provisions of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act. Council President Andrea Shaut is expected to hand those results to the Laws and Rules Committee for discussion and a potential vote on whether to recommend that the full council declare a housing emergency and enact rent regulation. 

The ETPA was first passed in 1974. Last year, state lawmakers renewed the law and, for the first time, gave upstate communities the power to opt into its provisions. The law allows communities with a rental vacancy rate of less than 5 percent to appoint a rent stabilization board with the power to cap annual rent increases. The regulations apply to buildings with six or more rental units that were built before 1974; smaller and newer rental units would be unaffected by the rent caps. According to a rough estimate by city assessor Dan Baker, about 80 rental properties holding between 1,000 and 1,200 households could fall under the ETPA guidelines.

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Supporters of the rent stabilization law, who include Noble, Common Council President Andrea Shaut and Majority Leader Rennie Scott-Childress (D-Ward 3), say that the regulations are necessary to prevent residents from being displaced at large apartment complexes where new owners have introduced sharp rent increases. But the potential new rules face pushback from property owners and others who worry that capping rent increases will have unintended negative consequences, including discouraging the development of badly needed new rental units or pushing landlords to convert existing rental apartments into less affordable condominiums.

Alderwoman Michele Hirsch (D-Ward 9) said she fully supports the housing emergency declaration, but was open to discussion on some aspects of the law, including the size of rental properties that would be subject to regulation.

“There are pros and cons,” said Hirsch, who sits on the council’s recently formed Housing Subcommittee. “I know there are concerns about potentially losing rental units and we want to be sensitive to that.”

Rashida Tyler, co-founder of The Real Kingston Tenants Union. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

The law provides a level of flexibility to communities that opt in to rent stabilization. Debate on the Common Council is likely to revolve around exactly how to implement the regulations. For example, the law could increase the number of units necessary to come under the regulations, letting smaller landlords off the hook. The council could also opt to apply the cap on rent hikes only to units occupied by the elderly or disabled. Lawmakers could also exempt property owners from the rent regulations in exchange for keeping units affordable.

Noble said he anticipated the council would seek input from different stakeholders as they work towards shaping the law. “I think they’re going to want to hear from landlords and tenants,” he said. “They want to have a full discussion of the issue.”

But housing activists say they plan to keep pressure on lawmakers to enact the rent stabilization law in full. Rashida Tyler, co-founder of The Real Kingston Tenants Union, said the pushback from real estate interests was evident in a robocall received by Kingston residents recently which warned of dire consequences if the ETPA was adopted. Tyler said that the call, the origin of which is unclear, was similar to one received by Ossining residents last year as the Westchester County village was weighing its own rent stabilization law. Tyler said the robocall contained misinformation and was clearly aimed at swaying the debate in Kingston.

“Ultimately there is a will on the part of the council and city government [to enact the ETPA] but if there’s too much misinformation out there it can hinder the process,” said Tyler. “My concern is that we will end up with a watered-down system full of workarounds and loopholes that will not accomplish what it is supposed to.”

There are 7 comments

  1. dale

    The aim is good, to create enough housing for everyone.
    The method is completely backward, and typical of NY twisted thinking.
    The solution, and let’s look around the nation at this, build more housing!
    Constricting the supply only worsens the problem.
    Capping rents in a tight market only worsens the probelm exponentially.
    It kills growth, encourages landlords to stop making improvements and let their properties fall into disrepair.
    Then the tight housing stock becomes seond or thrid-rate, people are then essentially living in properties that begin to look, feel, and operate more and more as slums.
    A healthy housing market is supported by developers and city, county, ward, leadership who encourage new builds to bring more stock into the market at ALL levels – affordable, mid-prices, and yes, luxury.
    The more NEW and DIVERSE housing stock you provide the more pressure is released and prices level out,
    and our citizens have housing to choose from.
    We should already be seeing the structure of The Alms House, The Kingstonian, and others in construction – but sadly we are not. And this is 100% the probelm that is being created in Kingston, and choking the housing options, thus choking the citizens who need housing.
    BUILD
    MORE
    HOUSING
    PROBLEM
    SOLVED

  2. BrokenRecord

    No mention of Airbnb regulation, arguably one of the most detrimental factors against housing affordability and availability of our times; Airbnb is a hyper-gentrifying force. Plenty of studies demonstrate how taking available housing off the market for longer term residents when combined with a lack of new construction pours gasoline on the fire. It’s common sense and it’s deeply unethical.

    This also represents a drop in the bucket and seems unfairly punitive towards older, larger multi family buildings. These buildings cost more to operate and maintain, they should be receiving substantial government assistance to modernize and bring operating and maintenance costs down if rent is going to be stabilized. They are also not beneficiaries of State investment funding and tax credits.

    We can and should do better.

    1. Henry Hudson

      The disabled get Supplemental Security Income, abbreviated as “SSI”. They may also get Social Security, which is abbreviated “SS”.

      If you get SS, you pay no school taxes.
      If you get SSI, you pay no school taxes, 50% of Town, City,County and Village taxes, depending on your real-property’s location.

      If you are a renter, God help you.

      1. Bob

        What? I am one hundred percent disabled, I do not get SS, nor am I eligible. I receive, SSI, Social Security Income, which I paid into my entire 45 year working career, and my employers matched, before my becoming disabled. I pay full property taxes on my home. So, maybe you should get your facts right before spewing inaccuracies.

        1. wowjustwow

          Social Security disability benefits are based on your income history. Supplemental Security Income is for indigent, disabled beneficiaries. Two different programs.

  3. Pratzie

    The fix will be the big depression that we’re headed for, thanks to this current GOP administration. There will be plenty of good space available at reasonable prices as the wealthy and moderately comfortable start jumping out of their upper floor windows as their portfolios go blank just like they did in the 1929 Great Depression. This one will be titled “Greatest Depression.” Those who have been prudent by not living on plastic and saving will survive. Those who have had to live in adversity will know how to survive. My Mom still remembers people jumping to their death in 1929 and people living out on the street.

    Fugly projects like the Kingstonian are part and parcel of gentrification. Over spending on the 2nd roundabout in Kingston is trashing taxpayer dollars – all because some are not patient enough to wait for lights to change. Everyone is in a hurry to go nowhere. We all will rue the wasteful spending very shortly.

    So far as AirBnB goes, it is an illegal commercial multi billion dollar venture that encroaches upon residential zoned property owners. I just heard of some people in another city who left their homes to live with relatives in order to make $$ on these short term rentals. A tax revolt is in order. Or…allow commercial ventures by the rest of the homeowners: odorous pig farms 🐷, smelly chicken breeding, brothels, daily yard sales, retail outlets, and whatever a homeowner wants to capitalize on. I see withholding taxes en masse is the only way to deal with the lawlessness of short term rentals. Pack your city and town hall meetings with protestors.

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