Last week, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell proposed a bill that would replace the MCI program in favor of a tax credit that would incentivize landlords to make improvements to their buildings.
Why get rid of the program? For years, tenants in rent-stabilized buildings have sounded the alarm that many landlords are taking advantage of the law to hike rents. Though renters benefit from capital projects like new entrances or security cameras, the cost of these fixes are tacked onto rents in perpetuity.
That means even after the cost of the project has been recouped, landlords will still collect permanently higher rents from the tenants. As a result, many longtime tenants –– including seniors living on fixed incomes –– are priced out of their homes.
And though the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal is supposed to oversee and approve these MCI requests, tenants see DHCR as just a rubber stamp.
We don’t want to see rent-stabilized buildings fall into disrepair and end up like our public housing stock. And a simple tax credit may not be enough to fully incentivize landlords to act.
But they have a responsibility to maintain and care for these buildings, not just seek higher profits.
New York City can’t afford to keep losing affordable apartments, especially with more and more people moving in and the homelessness crisis on the rise.
Though it’s not the only rent-related legislation that should be discussed –– the state should also reconsider vacancy decontrol –– lawmakers should make the elimination of the MCI program a priority.
It’s the right thing to do for both renters and the future of the city.