New York City's rent control laws are due to expire at the end of June. And as the laws expire, state legislators want to strengthen protections for tenants and bring the regulations to upstate cities.
"This is the first time tenants in all parts of New York State are pressuring and lobbying for rent control and tenant protections. It's a very exciting development," said Mike McKee, Treasurer for Tenants PAC.
Assembly lawmakers on Thursday held a public hearing on the issue — one of a series being held in upstate cities to discuss how rent control regulations would affect upstate renters and landlords.
"The reason it's happening is because people are hurting. There are tenants in Texas, there are tenants in Chicago, [and] Oregon just passed a statewide rent control law. It's very important," McKee said.
If statewide rent control is adopted, a local government would have to opt-in. Rent increases would be subject to the approval of a local rent board, which could also approve measures that make it harder for landlords to evict people.
"I'm still trying to get my arms around the issue. It's a complicated one and there's still a lot to learn," said Pat Fahy (D - Albany).
Assemblywoman Fahy sees merit to concerns raised by tenant advocates, as well as those who want to see more development in upstate cities like Albany.
"While I understand some tenants are under siege around the state, and there's a growing imbalance with speculative landlords, here we are actually trying to get more development into Albany. So I have some concerns," Fahy said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers may consider strengthening laws that require landlords to provide upkeep for their buildings and urge state officials to provide greater oversight of rent-controlled buildings.
"I can tell you there's neighbors of mine who live in conditions that do not even exist in third world countries. We need to be cognizant of that and we need to fix those loopholes that exist," said Carmen De La Rosa (D - Manhattan).
The Assembly will hold its next hearing on rent control in Rochester later this month.