Fighting for Universal Rent Control

By Cea W

On Thursday, November 15 — despite the freezing rain and snow — hundreds of DSA members joined hundreds more New York tenants in Lower Manhattan to march for Universal Rent Control. We took our fight directly to the offices of the Rent Stabilization Association. The RSA, along with the Real Estate Board of New York, is a notorious landlord lobby group that is well known for writing big checks to Republicans and Democrats alike, in an attempt to weaken renters’ rights in Albany.  

Universal Rent Control for New York State is a package of seven bills that we are campaigning to pass through the New York State legislature in 2019, when rent regulations expire and tenants have the maximum leverage. The November 15th march was a powerful step forward in our campaign, and was timed for maximum impact after the Nov. 6 general  election in which Democrats regained control of the State Senate for the first time in a decade. We had been working for this march since several of our members traveled to Rochester, New York over a month ago to plan a strategy to win Universal Rent Control under Democratic control.

This campaign has become ever more urgent following the Amazon HQ2 announcement, which illustrates how affordable housing is the absolute last thing on the minds of New York’s politicians, especially the Mayor and Governor. In addition to campaigning strongly against Cuomo and De Blasio’s Amazon deal and the effect HQ2 would have on affordable housing, we are presenting a practical alternative vision for a New York that workers can afford to live in.

Our strategy to win, critically, depends on our ability to organize renters — our neighbors — to join into the fight. We are mobilizing a strong tenant base and joining in coalition with other tenant groups across the State to put pressure on State level elected officials to pass our seven-bill package for Universal Rent Control. The steps we are taking to win will address:

  • Holding newly-elected (or not so newly-elected) State Senators and Assemblymembers accountable to their tenant base. We are doing this through organizing buildings and running canvasses in their districts, as well as holding tenant town halls/accountability sessions across New York State. In particular, we are targeting Assemblymember Carl Heastie, State Senator Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Since we don’t believe that “Amazon” Cuomo will ever be on our side, we are focusing on strategies and tactics that can bring us a veto-proof majority in the Assembly and a strong bloc in the Senate.

  • Eliminating the toxic role that corporate landlords play in New York politics. We are publicly connecting landlords directly to the displacement and abuses that tenants are experiencing as a result of financialization of the housing market, weak rent laws, and a “real-estate State.”

  • Changing the narrative. We have to get rid of the all-too-common perception that rent control is bad for living conditions and affordability, and dismiss the notion that mom-and-pop landlords (such that they even exist anymore!) will be harmed by rent regulations.

This isn’t going to be easy. The landlord lobby is mobilizing — and so is the Governor. But the tenant base is huge, powerful, and we have a path to victory in 2019. Our fight is more urgent than ever! Get involved:  

  • Sign up to organize your building! Email

  • Learn how to be a canvasser for Universal Rent Control: Come to a joint meeting of the Brooklyn Housing Working Group and the Electoral Working Group on Monday, December 3rd

About Rebecca Capua 117 Articles
Red Letter spotlights editor, former MWG OC