California Nixes Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning

California Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a bill that would have permitted local authorities to impose mandatory inclusionary zoning statewide. The proposal was opposed by California realtors as a violation of the Costa-Hawkins law which since 1995 has prevented localities from imposing rent regulations on new construction.

The situation in California may foreshadow future action in New York as Mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio has supported the concept of mandatory inclusionary zoning. This concept may be in violation of New York’s Urstadt Law which, similar to Costa-Hawkins, does not allow local rent regulations which are more stringent than State rent laws. No problem for Bill, since he also favors repealing the Urstadt Law, thereby  allowing the NYC City Council to govern the rent laws.

Rethinking Rent Regulation

By Robert Knakal

One of the most prominent needs in the New York City real estate market is affordable housing.With the expected growth in our population over the next couple of decades, it is imperative that work-force housing exist. This is housing for police officers, firemen, teachers and the scores of other workers who make this city run. An insufficient supply of affordable housing for these folks is a critical issue for the economic well-being of the city that future local administrations will have to address.

Most of our elected officials continually, and inaccurately, refer to our rent-regulation system an “affordable housing” program. Rent control and rent stabilization do not create affordable units as options for our current work force.

In fact, rent regulation actually does just the opposite, as it reduces the number of options for new residents coming into the marketplace. There are 3.3 million dwelling units in NYC, but someone new coming into town looking for an apartment really has only 2.3 million “choices,” as 1 million units remain stuck in the rent-regulation system.

This constraint on supply means that market-level rents are artificially high due to the artificially low rents paid by folks who have been in apartments for a long time. Study after study shows that in the absence of price controls, market prices are lowered. Getting rid of rent regulation would mean more choice and lower rents for the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers. It would also mean lower property taxes for those in free-market properties, as currently regulated properties would begin to contribute an appropriate level of taxes.

No I haven’t lost my mind—I don’t expect rent regulation to go away anytime soon. But the program’s existence undeniably exacerbates the housing problems we have here. Until the nonregulated residents of New York realize that they are paying higher rents and higher property taxes than they should be because they are the ones subsidizing rent-regulated tenants, and they become vocal about it to local politicians, rent regulation isn’t going anywhere.

Another negative aspect of rent regulation is that the benefits of subsidized rent levels create motivation for occupants of these units not to move, regardless of whether the unit’s size is appropriate for them or not. Therefore, we have little old ladies living in three-bedroom apartments by themselves and families of four or five living in one- or two-bedroom apartments. This misallocation of our housing stock is not good for the city.

Furthermore, the fact that these rent subsidies are given out based on inertia rather than need, as there is no means testing on rent regulation, means that this program does not address the affordability issue.

So how does the city create the affordable work-force housing that is so desperately needed?

One idea would be to bring back the 421a program in its original form to create needed affordable units. Changes to this program were precipitated by elected officials who don’t fully understand the program.

Another idea is to create a citywide 421g-type program to incentivize the private sector to convert obsolete office buildings into affordable housing. There is an oversupply of office space presently, and removing some excess space would simultaneously strengthen the office-space market and create affordable housing.

Lastly, the city could stimulate the creation of additional affordable housing units by providing FAR bonuses. Giving FAR bonuses in ratios of 3 to 1, or 4 to 1, to developers doesn’t cost the city a dime. It just takes the political will to address those who will inevitably complain that larger buildings are blocking out the sun or are creating negative impacts on the quality of life.

If these no-cost incentives are created properly, it is very likely that affordable units will be created by the private sector, eliminating the need for the government to try to figure out how to provide these units and creating a more livable city.
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Robert Knakal is the chairman and founding partner of Massey Knakal Realty Services; in his career he has brokered the sale of more than 1,300 properties with a market value in excess of $9 billion.

Source: Commercial Observer

 

 

Caretaker, Part II

In what promises to be a long tale, Margaret Hearn, a caretaker for two deceased sisters who has laid claim to their $291 a month, rent-controlled three-bedroom apartment on East 12th Street (see below), has given up her own $747 a month rent regulated apartment in Gramercy Park. She may be thinking that this move will help solidify her succession claim, but it is reminiscent of the days when squatters moved into vacant property and dared anyone to remove them.

                                     – Jack Freund, Executive Vice President, Rent Stabilization Association 

(Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the RSA.)

 

Caretaker, Part I: “Can You Really Claim Two Rent Controlled Apartments?”

 

Margaret Hearn Gives Up $747-a-Month Apartment

By SUZANNE ROZDEBA

 

Margaret Hearn

Margaret Hearn has given up the $747-a-month Gramercy pad she was holding on to as security, while continuing to fight for her $291-a-month, rent-controlled three-bedroom on East 12th Street.

“I don’t want to be there, it’s not home to me,” Ms. Hearn said of the 300-square-foot alcove studio in Gramercy that she has kept for 20 years. She said it was a financial burden to pay for both apartments, and that “nasty comments” from those who read about her living situation persuaded her not to renew her lease, which expires Oct. 31.

Last month, she told The Local she was fighting to keep her East Village apartment because she believes she is the rightful heir to the two sisters who in 2008, she said, asked her to share it with them.

“Win or lose, this is my home. Not because I feel entitled to it, or that I earned it, or anything like that. This is where I’m connected because of my relationship to the ladies. They were my family, and the neighborhood is my family,” she said yesterday.

Among her naysayers is Gregory Bronner, founder of NYC Renters’ Alliance for Housing Choice, who told The Local that Ms. Hearn’s fight is “a travesty for New York,” and that rent regulations should be phased out, with moderate subsidies given to the “truly needy.” He believes rent-regulated apartments “should be available to all New Yorkers” when they enter the market.

“We believe that that apartment should no longer have succession rights. She should go back to her apartment in Gramercy. She should not be allowed to inherit. From a moral perspective, it would be better used for a middle-class family looking for housing,” he said.

Ms. Hearn shot back, “First off, this apartment would be chopped up into tiny bedrooms, and would charge $5,000 a month, I believe. It’s not a question of apartments’ availability; it’s the price of apartments that makes low-income tenants feel that we’re being pushed out. Mayor Bloomberg wants us to live in a box smaller than my college dorm room.”

Ms. Hearn disagreed with Mr. Bronner’s argument that rent-regulated apartments should be phased out, arguing that many “could never afford to live in the neighborhood they grew up in, the neighborhood they have roots to” if not for the right to inherit apartments from their parents. “They’re the shopper in the community, the people that come together when the community needs them, and they bring their different cultural influences to the community,” she said.

Ms. Hearn and a lawyer for her landlord are scheduled for a deposition on Oct. 26.

Source: The Local East Village

This is chutzpah! Private owner is petitioned to keep apartment below market rate in honor of deceased feminist.

Petition Calls For ‘Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment’ For Low-Income Feminists

By MARY REINHOLZ

Acquaintances of Shulamith Firestone want the rent-stabilized apartment where the author and activist died this summer to be preserved as a residence for a low-income feminist, according to a petition obtained by The Local.

Kathie Sarachild with photo of Shulamith Firestone.

The petition, which can be read below, outlines a plan to earmark her fifth-floor walk-up at 213 East 10th Street for tenants doing “important” feminist work, who cannot afford current market rates in the rapidly gentrifying East Village. The rent would be no more than $1,000 a month.

Women’s liberation stalwarts like Kate Millett along with East Village literary agent Frances Goldin and Annette Averette, co-director of Sixth Street Community Center, are among those who have signed the petition directed at landlord Robert Perl, owner of Tower Brokerage.

Written by Fran Luck, executive director of the WBAI radio program “Joy of Resistance: Multi-Cultural Feminist Radio,” it notes that owners and developers of housing in formerly working-class neighborhoods have for decades “set aside” affordable rentals. Ms. Firestone paid about $400 a month, according to Mr. Perl, who said he had been planning to increase the rent of the next tenant in order to offset rising taxes imposed by the Bloomberg administration. A one-bedroom in the building, between First and Second Avenues, was recently leased for $2,095, according to StreetEasy.

Ms. Firestone, who in the 1960s helped organize women’s liberation groups such as Redstockings, New York Radical Women and New York Radical Feminists, was found dead in her apartment in late August. She was 67 and had long been afflicted with mental illness in the years following the 1970 publication of her influential feminist treatise, “The Dialectic of Sex.” Her book embraced technology as a way of freeing women from “the tyranny of their biology.”

“I think she was a difficult tenant,” said Ms. Goldin. “She was a disturbed person and would leave the water on and flood other apartments. She didn’t mean to do this, but if we could persuade the landlord that we could guarantee him a reasonable tenant, maybe he could become a hero. It’s worth a shot.”

Mr. Perl, who was Ms. Firestone’s landlord for 19 years (he said she lived there for a total of 30), considers himself as something of a “model landlord” and believes Ms. Firestone’s family “appreciates how she was taken care of over the years.” He pointed out that the city’s rent stabilization laws allow rent increases when tenants vacate regulated apartments, and said he wanted the highest allowable increase in order to begin renovation of the space with capital improvements.

Ms. Goldin said she didn’t know the names of prospective tenants for the proposed Shulamith Firestone Memorial Residence, but the petition notes that they would be “vetted” by a feminist committee and held to standards similar to those of other tenants. The idea emerged out of a memorial for Ms. Firestone held Sept. 23 at St. Mark’s Church.

Bowery resident Kate Millett,  one of an estimated 200 people who attended the memorial, told The Local that the petition’s proposal for a feminist tenant “in perpetuity” at Ms. Firestone’s space would be a difficult one to sell to any landlord, but, she said, “We have to try.”

Other attendees of the memorial included Ti-Grace Atkinson, a former president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, and author of “Amazon Odyssey”; Kathie Sarachild, director of Redstockings Archive for Action who is credited with creating feminist consciousness raising; and Alix Kates Shulman, author of “Memoirs of An Ex-Prom Queen,” a bestseller that also came out of second wave feminism.

Jacqui Ceballos, president of Veteran Feminists of America, lives in Phoenix and did not attend but said she is still receiving calls and e-mails from women expressing a desire to reboot the women’s liberation movement and to keep Ms. Firestone’s legacy alive.

PETITION
September 30, 2012

Because…The Feminist world, the Art world and the Lower East Side/East Village Community have just lost one of our great visionaries–Shulamith Firestone–a woman who was able to remain, work and survive in her/our neighborhood for many years because she paid a relatively low rent….

Because…the average rent being charged new renters in our neighborhood is about $2,100., and had Shulamith tried to rent here today, it would have been impossible for her to find, live and work in an apartment she could afford…

Because… the Lower East Side/East Village environment is all the poorer for the loss, due to skyrocketing rents, of the kind of creative spirits that formerly gave the neighborhood its unique character–but who are now being priced out…

Because… Shulamith’s sister feminists, friends and admirers would like to memorialize her by making it possible for a feminist(s) coming after her to be able to live in this neighborhood and do feminist work here–such work usually being either unpaid or poorly paid, and therefore requiring an affordable rent…

Because.. it is well within “fair housing practices” developed over decades for developers/owners of housing in formerly working class neighborhoods to create “set-asides” of affordable rental units for those who cannot pay market rates…

Therefore…We, the undersigned, do hereby Petition Robert Perl, owner of 213 East 10th Street, and do strongly urge him to work with us to create a “Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment” that would, in perpetuity, remain well below market rates and which rent would, at this time, not exceed $1,000. per month; this apartment would be reserved for a woman who is making an important contribution to the feminist movement that is not well remunerated.

Candidates for residence in such an apartment would be vetted by a committee of feminists drawn from the list below and would meet the same standards as any other tenant–with the exception of paying a lower-than-market-rate rent.

Signatures (so far)
Kate Millett, Feminist, Author: Sexual Politics

Frances Goldin, Co-Founder Cooper Square Committee, Literary Agent for Mumia Abu Jamal

Carol Giardina, Professor of Hisory, Queens College, CUNY, Author: Freedom for Women

Kathie Sarachild, Director, Redstockings Archives for Action

Ti-Grace Atkinson, radical feminist

Nellie Hester Bailey, Director, West Harlem Tenants Council

Annette Averette, Co-Director, Sixth Street Community Center

Howard Brandstein, Co-Director, Sixth Street Community Center

Rosalyn Baxandall, Distinguished Professor, SUNY-Old Westbury

Fran Luck, Executive Producer, Joy of Resistance Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI

Erin Mahoney, National Women’s Liberation(NWL)

Allison Guttu, Organizer, NWL, Women of Color Caucus of NWL, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Amy Kesselman, Professor Emerita, SUNY-New Paltz

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Professor Emeriti, California State University

Ann Snitow, Network of East-West Women

Marisa Figuereido, Redstockings

Jennifer Sunderland, Redstockings

Pete Dolack, Former Editor, New York State Green Party Newspaper

Bill Koehnlein, Brecht Forum

Marie-Claire Picher, Co-Founder,Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory

Nancy Kogel, MNN TV Producer, Reaching Out for Animal Rights (ROAR)

 

Source: The Local East Village