Brooklyn Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte and other city and state elected officials were arrested last Wednesday in front of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in Albany in their fight for the rights of New York City tenants and stronger rent laws.
After her release, Bichotte, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, joined First Lady Chirlane McCray in her district to educate people about the rent laws, which are due to expire on June 15.
According to Bichotte, the first Haitian American from New York City to be elected to the Assembly, the city is in “the worst affordability crisis ever seen.
“Not only have we lost hundreds of thousands of affordable rent-regulated units, tenants living in rent-regulated units are increasingly unable to afford to pay the rent,” she said.
“I believe that 2015 has to be the year to stop the loss of affordable housing,” she added. “This crisis disproportionately affects those who are struggling to pay their rent, many of whom have lived in their neighborhoods for decades.
“The rent laws will come to an end in June 2015, so this is the time to strengthen the rent laws to preserve much-needed affordable housing in low income communities and communities of color,” Bichotte continued.
“We must act to repeal vacancy deregulation, and close the loopholes that make this precious affordable housing resource unaffordable,” she said.
The Assemblymember said the practice of speculative targeting of affordable housing has decimated affordable housing in our community, stating that this practice
would not be possible without loopholes in the rent laws and the rent regulated apartments, which convert to market-rate apartments through vacancy deregulation.
She said loopholes in the rent laws, such as the vacancy bonus, individual apartment improvement increases, major capital improvement increases and preferential rents, create economic incentives to harass tenants out of their long-term homes.
“Speculation of affordable housing thrives in an environment with weak rent laws,” Bichotte said. “We must strengthen them so tenants are able to feel secure in their homes and stay in their communities.”
She said because of vacancy deregulation, the city has lost over 100,000 affordable regulated units in the past 20 years.
As a result of vacancy deregulation and co-op conversions, rent-regulated apartments in New York City are concentrated in Upper Manhattan, the West Bronx, western Queens, and central Brooklyn.
Additionally, Bichotte said vacancy deregulation increases landlords’ incentive to harass tenants through decreased services, as a method of forcing long-term tenants out of their regulated apartments.
“Our district has been one of the worst hit losing over 11,000 units of affordable housing in just the past three years,” she said.
“It is unacceptable that 80 percent of poor renters in rent-regulated apartments pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent, a drastic increase from 64 percent in 2005,” she added.
For 80 percent of poor New Yorkers who pay over half of their income towards rent, residual income per household member is $4.40 daily, Bichotte said.
“Those poor New Yorkers have $4.40 a day per household member to pay for all other needs including food, transportation, medical, and school-related costs,” she said.
Bichotte said rent-regulated apartments are the largest source of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income tenants, but are being lost due to rapid gentrification.
She said there are 1.1 million units of rent-regulated housing and 2.5 million tenants who live in rent-regulated housing. Overall, 445,000 low-income families live in rent-regulated housing.
Between 2000 and 2012, the number of units in New York City renting for less than $1,000 declined by over 400,000, Bichotte said.
Overall, from 2002 to 2011, there has been a 39 percent loss in rental apartments that low-income households can afford.
“The loss of affordable housing cannot continue,” Bichotte said. “I will be a voice and put forth every possible effort to stop the loss of affordable housing in our district and New York City as a whole,” she added.
On Tuesday, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition and many advocates were expected to travel by bus to Albany, calling on Cuomo or and Senate Majority to vote on stronger rent laws.
“It is our last chance to be heard,” Bichotte said.