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1993 could be the year for change.

If New York's rental industry is to survive, I believe we must have both regulatory and legislative changes to provide relief for property owners this year. On Dec. 3, 1992, the Rent Stabilization Association sponsored a housing conference to establish a blueprint for the survival of New York's housing industry. With every major elected and appointed official from the Mayor on down present, and with 1200 owners in attendance, the conference panel stressed the importance of housing for the future of New York and set forth an agenda for change, including regulatory relief, changes in Housing Court and reform of the rent laws.

If we look back to last year, I believe we can see how to make these changes happen.

The most significant event for property owners last year was the agreement by the Mayor and City Countil to freeze the property tax rate. After years of steadily rising property taxes, that relief was achieved through the lobbying efforts of a broad coalition of groups including owners of multi- family housing, commercial owners, co-op and condo owners and single family homeowners. Only by uniting constituencies whose views often differ were we able to convince the City administration that property tax relief was essential.

Looking. forward, one of the major sources of concern for property owners is the rising cost of water and sewer service, especially when water meters are concerned. While the RSA's lawsuit seeking to halt the installation of water meters is pending, 1 believe we have made progress on this issue primarily because a number of various interest groups have come forward to express their concern. Non-profit housing providers, single-family owners and banking groups have all addressed their concerns to the city administration. As a result, we have already seen some efforts by the City to mitigate the harmful effects of drastically increasing water and sewer bills, and I believe we will see more.

For instance, the Water Board recently voted to consider two proposals, one which would roll back metered bills for buildings metered under Local Law 53 and other buildings which were not given the opportunity to avail themselves of a "transition" period, and another proposal which would "forgive" excessive metered bills which resulted from leaks or other unavoidable events. While these problems are a significant acknowledgement of metering problems, they are still only stop-gap measures which do not address the basic flaw in the metering program: there is no incentive for tenants to conserve water.

The other major threat now facing owners, proposals for extensive lead paint abatement measures, may also be diminished as a result of opposition by an unusual array of constituencies. In the case of lead abatement, it is not only non-profit housing providers but the city itself which will be subject to very expensive lead paint removal costs if the proposed measures are implemented. It is certainly unusual for property owner to be allied with the city on any issue, but lead paint is clearly one area where government and the private sector, both profit and non-profit, must work together if we are to eliminate this environmental hazard without destroying housing in the process.

On the broader issues of overly-restrictive regulation and legislation, we may also find ourselves to be allied increasingly with an unlikely partner: the non-profit housing providers. As the city has increased the size of the nonprofit sector by transferring formerly privately owned housing to non-profit management, these groups have found that they are encountering the same problems as private owners have experienced for years.

The non-profit groups, rather than just organizing tenants, now insist that tenants must take responsibility for conditions in their building. They realize that it takes a minimal amount of money to maintain an apartment. They realize that, sometimes, they must go into Housing Court to evict a non-paying or nuisance tenant. And finally, they realize, as one non-profit. provider so aptly put it, "If we don't get paid, we can't deliver services."

As the non-profit groups gain experience operating rental properties, they are increasingly frustrated not just by the rising costs of real estate taxes and water and sewer charges, but by the costs of unwarranted sanitation summonses, emergency repair charges and all the other burdens of excess bureaucracy which private owners have experienced for years.

I believe that, increasingly, the nonprofit housing organizations will become allies in the fight for more rational City and Stale/housing policies. We need these allies, because City Hall still 'just doesn't get it' when it comes to the City's rental housing.

In his recent State of the City address, the Mayor stressed the importance of the City's small business community to the economic vitality of the City. Therefore, the Mayor announced, small business owners would be given a break on sanitation summonses. The Mayor, however, did not include the City's thousands of mom and pop rental property owners among the City's small business people. Apparently, the Mayor does not believe that rental property owners equally need a break from sanitation summonses.

This year, we need to make it clear to the Mayor that this City's rental property owners, both large and small are essential to the future of New York. Rental owners provide the backbone of, the City's neighborhoods and support one-quarter of the City's budget. Without these owners, there will be no New York.

This year, we must achieve, not only regulatory relief, but a beginning to the phase-out of rent laws. As the rent laws again expire on June 15, there is an increasing realization that the rent laws have been counter-productive, that they are not benefiting the poor, and that they have imposed a tremendous cost on the taxpayers of New York.

What happens this year is key to the survival of New York and its housing industry. That is why the RSA created its own Political Action Committee (RSA-PAC): to provide RSA members with the resources to expand our voice in New York's political arena.
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Title Annotation:Review & Forecast, Section III; improvement expected in New York, New York real estate rental industry
Author:Gilbert, John J., III
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jan 27, 1993
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