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State Lawmakers Inch Closer to a Housing Deal That Will Likely Piss Everyone Off, Mostly Maintain the Status Quo

And more stories to read as you go into your pre-eclipse weekend.

A sticker on a highway overpass that says "New York Fuckery."

(Hell Gate)

Last we checked, yep, New York is still in the grip of a housing crisis. Are our elected officials doing anything about it?

According to stories in New York Focus, Politico, the New York Times, and City & State, the state budget, which was due on April 1, is being held up in large part because lawmakers have reached an "impasse" on a housing deal—as if legislators were driving an ox wagon through the Sierra Nevada mountains and not, you know, sitting at a sad conference table in Albany and eating Dunkin' Donuts.  

New York Focus reports that the biggest stumbling block isn't figuring out how to get a version of Good Cause Eviction into a deal—we'll get to that in a minute—but is actually hammering out a deal between the Real Estate Board of New York and the construction unions over how much to pay workers.

While everyone seems to want a new version of the expired 421-a tax break to incentivize development (some of it "affordable"), representatives from the Building and Construction Trades Council say that in order to pay their workers fairly, they'll need wage guarantees of around $70/hour. REBNY, meanwhile, wants something closer to $40/hour, and the two sides don't seem any closer to striking a deal than they were at the beginning of the year, when Governor Kathy Hochul tasked them with figuring this out. "It really all comes down to the wage rate," one member of the Building Trades told New York Focus.

Meanwhile, on the tenant protections side, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris told Politico that a housing deal would include "a subsidy for affordable housing development partnered with a version of Good Cause."

What does this actually mean? "This year, according to three sources familiar with negotiations, REBNY has indicated openness to a watered-down version of good cause eviction—but only if paired with a significant weakening of tenant protections that currently exist," New York Focus reported. And that, according to reporting in City & State, may mean including a provision that allows landlords to significantly raise rents on rent-stabilized apartments, in exchange for making it tougher to evict tenants. Currently, landlords of rent-stabilized tenants can recoup the costs of improvements to individual apartments up to $15,000; some elected officials, including City Comptroller Brand Lander, have suggested raising it to $25,000, while REBNY reportedly wants that bumped up to something like $150,000. Sources told the CITY that a deal could end up looking like California's law, which allows for annual rent increases as high as 10 percent.

From a City & State story published on Tuesday:

After this story was published, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie confirmed on Tuesday that bringing back rent increases for individual apartment improvements of rent-stabilized apartments is on the negotiating table. "It’s trying—the question of trying to get the apartments that have not been put back online because, I’d say, the landlords don’t want to spend the money to put the apartments back online—those are the discussions we’re having," Heastie said. He was careful not to characterize the discussions as rollbacks to the landmark 2019 rent laws. "There’s no such thing—not going back to vacancy decontrol, like those types of things," Heastie said, referencing an old provision that allowed landlords to take units out of rent regulations if they hit a high enough rent after a tenant moved out.

Affordable housing advocates are trying to keep the pressure on lawmakers to ensure that the main tenets of Good Cause—meaningful restrictions on rent increases and evictions—are preserved. On Thursday, hundreds of protesters converged on REBNY's headquarters in Midtown, and 13 of them were arrested, including New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

"Today, we were arrested to protest REBNY’s active campaign to harm tenants statewide, to urge state lawmakers to reject big real estate’s influence, and to finally pass the protections New Yorkers desperately need," Williams said in a statement.

Here are some more stories to read as you go into your pre-eclipse weekend:

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