In a blow to upstate landlords, a city in the Hudson Valley is poised to be the first north of the New York City suburbs to adopt rent stabilization.
A recent study found the rental vacancy rate in Kingston to be 1.57 percent, the Times Union reported. The vacancy rate is low enough that the Ulster County city could declare a housing emergency, which under state law would allow it to implement rent stabilization for some buildings.
Under the state’s Emergency Tenant Protection Act, rent protection can be implemented at the local level for buildings with six or more units and constructed before 1974. Mayor Steve Noble told the Times Union that at least 1,200 units would be affected if the city opts in.
A resolution for a housing emergency is slated to be considered June 15.
The study was conducted by the city in April and May. Landlords for 59 properties totaling more than 1,200 units participated. Only a couple of years ago, a survey of qualifying units by the Center for Governmental Research found a vacancy rate of 6.7 percent.
To qualify for rent stabilization under the act, which was expanded in 2019, municipalities need a vacancy rate below 5 percent. Such low availability is typically found only in New York City and its immediate suburbs, but a tightening rental market and rising prices have more municipalities inching towards possible rent stabilization.
Once rents are kept artificially low, the vacancy rate tends to stay low and the housing emergency persists, allowing rent stabilization to become essentially permanent. That is either a feature or a bug of the program, depending on who is commenting.
Last year, Rochester was eyeing rent stabilization until a study found a 9 percent vacancy rate in the city, well above the threshold needed to enact such measures. While landlords breathed a sigh of relief, tenant advocates criticized the study and landlords for allegedly gaming the outcome by refusing to participate.
Kingston is becoming a refuge for renters. Regardless of the decision on rent stabilization, the city already has a good cause eviction law on the books. The measure, adopted in January, grants every tenant the right to a lease renewal and protects them from rent increases above a certain threshold.
Rent stabilization is more restrictive than good cause eviction in terms of rent increases and can also allow leases to be passed from one generation to the next without landlords having a say in the matter.
[Times Union] — Holden Walter-Warner