NEW YORK - City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is headed to Albany.
"The most important issue the state legislature is facing this legislative session is strengthening our rent laws," Johnson told NY1 in an exclusive interview on Monday.
Johnson will join hundreds of advocates on Tuesday to call on state lawmakers to pass a package of bills that would extend the city's rent regulations. Under the current law, the Rent Guidelines Board determines the rent increases each year for the city's nearly one million rent stabilized apartments.
"This year with a unified legislature, with the Democrats in control of the state senate, I am really hopeful we are going to strengthen our rent laws by repealing vacancy decontrol and many other measures that have been debated for years," Johnson said.
Vacancy decontrol allows landlords to remove all rent protections if a unit becomes vacant.
We've lost hundreds of thousands of rent stabilized apartments, we need to repeal that to ensure that people are not losing their homes and getting rid of incentives that landlords use to deregulate apartments and take them out of stabilization," Johnson said.
In a statement, Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords across the five boroughs said, "the proposed changes to the state’s rent laws would pull the plug on a major economic engine for our neighborhoods. Our elected officials should address the problem of affordability by supporting policies that directly help low- and moderate-income tenants who need help to pay their rent."
Johnson said landlord profits have continued to increase as the city's affordability crisis worsens.
"We've seen profit for the vast majority of landlords go up even when the rent increases from the rent guidelines board have been frozen or been very very low, so I think landlords have done pretty well,"
This week, the Council will pass a set of 17 bills aimed at preventing tenant displacement. Although only the state can pass legislation to reform the rent guidelines, the council's proposals will create new penalties for landlords who use construction or unsafe living conditions as a way to push tenants out.
The city's rent regulation guidelines are set to expire in June. The Senate announced this week it will hold hearings across the state. IF allowed to expire, nearly one million rent regulated apartments in the city could lose protections.