Kingston’s Common Council voted Thursday evening, July 28, to adopt the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA), which will allow it to establish rent control for rental properties with six or more units that were built before 1974 if their apartment vacancy rate is below five percent.
Some 1200 Kingston rental units will be impacted by rent control. Annual rent increases will be determined by a county Rent Guidelines Board.
“I am pleased to be able to codify this legislation and to implement these tenant protections here in Kingston,” said Kingston mayor Steve Noble, who immediately signed the legislation. “We have long known we have a housing crisis in our community, and this is yet another step we are taking to protect our residents and make sure that everyone who wishes to live in Kingston is able to ….”
Noble included among the city’s housing efforts the creation of a Department of Housing Initiatives and a land bank, passage of a Good-Cause Eviction law, and a city-wide rezoning. “We are using whatever mechanisms we can to protect our residents and ensure housing for all,” he said.
The Common Council will be announcing applications for the Rent Guidelines Board this week. “I encourage folks to step up and apply, to be a part of the solutions,” said Kingston Common Council president Andrea Shaut.
The county rent guidelines board will have nine members, including two landlords, two tenants, and five members of the general public.
The Kingston vote was celebrated as a big win for the cause espoused by For the Many, a grassroots group advocating for policy change.
“I hope more upstate cities will follow Kingston’s lead and do everything possible to protect tenants,” exulted Brahvan Ranga, the organization’s political director. “Ultimately, though, we still need stronger action at the state level, including through the passage of Good-Cause Eviction. And the recent legal challenges to Good Cause locally make that clearer than ever.”
Alderman Michael Olivieri was the sole vote against the legislation, which passed by a vote of 7-1.
“The only people this won’t help are corporate landlords,” said Jonathan Bix, executive director at For the Many, after the Kingston vote. “We applaud Mayor Steve Noble and the Kingston council for taking this step to protect housing affordability. This will benefit long-term residents, whether owners or renters.”
Waves of heat
Waves of heat rose up off the asphalt and distorted the air in Newburgh, about eight miles south of the Ulster County line. On the sidewalk of the wide east-west artery that is Broadway, a thermometer this sweltering Thursday, July 21 showed 94 degrees. It was only one o’clock. It looked and felt as though a thunderstorm could strike at any minute.
For the Many had enticed an assortment of area politicians inside a two-story brick box of a building in Central City to kick off a regional housing campaign called “Homes are not Hotels,” the goal of which was to champion legislation regulating short-term rentals in the Hudson Valley.
Instead of taking place outdoors in Safe Harbors Park, as had been originally planned, the event was held inside an empty storefront which, before it closed during the pandemic, was most recently named Sense Beauty Supply. No one had thought to wash the shop windows, and the merciless sun highlighted the smeary omission.
What is important when it comes to political sausage-making is not the setting as much as the props, the invigorating ideology which propels the faithful forward. Unexpected remarkable things do happen.
Some 50 people, half of them press, politicians and volunteers, had gathered in Newburgh on this sweltering July day to hear politicians speechify as part of a cropped and edited product intended to be beamed to the world via the Internet.
Arriving attendees were handed a clipboard for their contact information, and then ushered inside to collect a handsome free t-shirt emblazoned with the “Homes are not Hotels” motto. They were then set loose in the space to follow the speeches until the press and optics portion of the event was over, and food and drink was offered gratis.
Before the event started, the first photo op presented itself. Everyone but the press was hustled over to a wall adorned with the blue, red, black and white slogan signs. A lectern was rolled into place to emphasize the human background.
For the Many’s political director Ranga talked about the short-term rental market in the Hudson Valley.
“Right here in Orange County, this is the county with the seventh most Airbnb revenue,” said Ranga. “Dutchess County is third, and Ulster County is number one in the state, outside of New York City….”
Absentee investors, people who don’t live in these communities or in the property they owned, were coming into town. “They’re buying up our housing, buying up apartments, buying up entire buildings, and instead of renting them out to the people that live here, they’re choosing to rent them out as vacation rentals in order to make a quick profit,” continued Ranga. “It’s taking up a huge percentage of our housing stock that could be used for long-term housing, which is leading to a major shortage and making the housing crisis worse. We’re just driving up rents for tenants, and driving up prices for first-time homebuyers making it so much harder to settle down and call these communities.”
All the speakers, including north-of-the-Orange-County-border personages ex-state-senator Jen Metzger, Ulster County comptroller March Gallagher and New Paltz village deputy mayor Alexandra Wojcik, presented diverse variations on the same theme.
The event went off without a hitch. Once the political indoctrination was complete, the politicians mingled with the press and each other.
The mingle was not dissimilar to a church service in a homeless shelter. At the end of it, For the Many was able to announce mayor Torrance Harvey’s pledge to champion legislation the group has prepared.
The mayor said that For the Many’s template policy was desperately needed in his city. “This proposal will pass in the City of Newburgh with unanimous support,” he predicted.