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Kingston Becomes First Upstate City to Adopt Rent Stabilization

The Hudson Valley city of Kingston became the first locality north of New York City (NYC) and its suburbs to adopt rent stabilization last week as its Common Council officially declared a housing emergency under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, limiting rent increases for approximately 1,200 market-rate rentals to a percentage set annually by a local rent guidelines board.

Rent stabilization generally applies to market-rate rentals in buildings of six units or more constructed before 1974. The system limits the amount that rent may be increased for covered units to a percentage determined by the local rent guidelines board and guarantees the right to a renewal lease for tenants who abide by the terms of their rental agreement. Additional increases to help cover the cost of major capital improvements or individual apartment improvements may also be granted by the State, although both the amount that may be claimed for these projects and the resulting rent increase are limited.

Rent stabilization has traditionally only been available in NYC and the surrounding counties of Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland; however, the 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act expanded the ability to opt in to municipalities across the state if they can determine and declare a housing emergency, defined as a rental vacancy rate of 5 percent or less. Kingston's most recent study – the second commissioned by the City – found a vacancy rate of 1.57 percent, allowing the Common Council’s declaration of an emergency last week.

Kingston lawmakers previously attempted to address the City’s rental crisis by advancing a “good cause eviction” package to limit rent increases and prohibit termination of a tenancy by eviction or non-renewal of a lease without “good cause” and potential court involvement for most multifamily rental units. Other municipalities – including Albany, Hudson, New Paltz, Newburgh, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie – worked with varying degrees of success to enact similar local laws over the last year, but in June, a judge slowed that movement by striking down Albany’s version, citing conflict with an existing state law that outlines a process for landlords to legally increase rent by an amount greater than that authorized by the local proposal.

While attorneys supporting Albany’s good cause eviction law reportedly maintain that the June ruling will not directly impact the laws that have been successfully enacted by Hudson, Newburgh, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie lawmakers, tenant advocates are abandoning their city-by-city push and shifting focus back to effecting change at the state level. In the meantime, Kingston’s latest pivot to utilize the State-sanctioned rent stabilization system may signal that similar efforts by other upstate localities are not far behind.

LeadingAge NY opposed the State’s good cause eviction proposal this year and will continue to monitor the progress of that proposal as well as rent regulation expansion efforts in localities across the state. While well-intentioned, proposals to limit evictions and rent increases for market-rate housing providers do not adequately consider implications for not-for-profit retirement housing and continuing care retirement community providers: “Essential property payments” for these providers include not only mortgage, tax, insurance, and utility payments, but also the resources and employees needed to maintain a robust and resident-driven package of services and programming from one year to the next. In addition, as aging residents’ physical and mental health changes, these providers must be able to act quickly to terminate a tenancy or deny lease renewal in the unfortunate event that the resident can no longer stay safely in their apartment.

Contact: Annalyse Komoroske Denio, akomoroskedenio@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8866