Rent is too damn high: How city leaders vow to change that, and why Albany is their obstacle

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CITY HALL (PIX11) -- On Tuesday, city leaders joined with housing advocates to declare their plans to make New York City more affordable for renters, but they also admitted that there's at least one significant obstacle in their way -- the state lawmakers who write and pass housing legislation.

Still, the group, led by the organization Alliance for Tenant Power, vowed to begin a quest to overturn state regulations that place Albany at the center of decisions regarding housing issues in New York City.

One of the main regulations they oppose allows landlords to charge market rate rents on rent regulated properties if the rent rises above $2500 a month.

Alphabet City tenant Israel Bello said that his situation could be easily affected by that $2500 regulated rent cap. "It's absurd, it's crazy," he told PIX11 News. He's currently paying about $2100 for a two bedroom apartment, but said that his yearly increase of $100 to $200 could soon put him in a position where his landlords could raise the rent on his home to whatever they think they can get from someone else.

"It's getting higher," said Bello. "The prices are getting higher every year."
His concern was echoed on the steps of City Hall by major city elected officials. "You stay there for two years," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, "the rent goes up, and you've got to move. That is not good for the community."

Brewer was joined by city comptroller Scott Stringer. An analysis by his office found that the percentage of the salaries of low- to lower-middle income New Yorkers that goes to rent has steadily increased, squeezing families more and more.

In 2000, Stringer's office found, households earning $20,000 to $40,000 paid 33 percent of their income in rent. In 2012, that percentage rose to 41 and counting. "You get very frustrated," said Autumn Fore, a Bronx resident.

The situation has become so dire, a number of New Yorkers have resorted to asking strangers, via crowdsourcing, for money to avoid being evicted.

To change that situation, however, protesters at City Hall pointed out, will need more than just city support.

"You should not have out of town legislators deciding what happens in the City of New York," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams at Tuesday morning's rally.
He and others said they were determined to promote home rule in Albany, where the city government would be granted authority over tenant pricing issues in New York City.

Barring that, the group pointed to a handful of measures that state legislators from New York City are pursuing in Albany to keep current rent regulations in place or to make them tighter.

Typically, landlord organizations have strongly fought such measures. No landlord groups that PIX11 News contacted responded to our inquiries.

The legislative session begins in January.