Feb. 25, 2019 By Christian Murray
Two state legislators held a press conference in Manhattan Friday to announce the introduction of a bill that would stop landlords from raising the rent when they make capital improvements to their apartment buildings.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblymember Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) held a press conference to announce the introduction of a bill that would scrap the Major Capital Improvement (MCI) program—a program that allows the owners of rent stabilized and rent-controlled apartment buildings to hike the rent when major improvements are made.
The program permits landlords of rent stabilized buildings to increase the rent by up to 6 percent per year to cover the cost of upgrades such as installing new boilers, replacing windows or replacing a roof.
MCIs, which are permanent rent increases, provide landlords with the ability to raise the rent above the amount set by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board each year. Last year the board capped the maximum rent increase for a one-year lease to 1.5 percent.
“Too many tenants are priced out of their homes because of MCIs whose only improvement seems to be the landlord’s bottom line,” Gianaris said at the rally. “All New Yorkers deserve high-quality, affordable homes and our proposal brings us closer to that goal by ensuring repairs are made without burdening tenants with unreasonable costs.”
The bill would end MCIs and provide landlords with the ability to seek tax credits instead. Additionally, all MCI increases that have gone into effect in the past 7 years would be rolled back, resulting in a rent reduction for many New Yorkers.
The program has come under scrutiny in recent years. Many argue that the program has been exploited by landlords to hike the rent through unnecessary, high-cost improvements. Many tenants have had to leave their apartments, Gianaris said, unable to keep up with the rent hikes.
Gianaris, who has introduced the bill in the senate, argues that landlords shouldn’t be able to recoup these costs from tenants. He said the improvements are part of maintaining an asset, and they are reflected in increased property values.
Barnwell said that improvements should be part of the cost of running a rental business.
“It is unacceptable that we maintain a program pushing middle to low income New Yorkers out of their homes while allowing landlords to make monstrous profits,” Barnwell, who introduced the bill in the assembly, said in a statement. “Under our legislation, landlords will not be able to increase tenants’ rents due to repairs/improvements the landlord should already have made.”