Kingston rent control can stay, but rent rollback is toast

Judge tossed Hudson Valley landlords’ challenge to rent stabilization measure

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble and Hudson Valley Property's Richard Lanzone

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble and Hudson Valley Property’s Richard Lanzone (City of Kingston, LinkedIn, Getty)

Kingston twice made New York history last year, becoming the first upstate locality to pass rent control, and the first in the state to approve a rent rollback — until a lawsuit brought by landlords temporarily blocked both measures.

On Friday, a judge delivered some good and bad news to landlords in the Hudson Valley city: The 15 percent rent reduction won’t stand, but rent stabilization is here to stay.

The Hudson Valley Property Owners Association, which sued to block the measures, argued that Kingston relied on distorted data to manufacture a low enough vacancy rate to allow for rent stabilization.

Under state law, a vacancy rate below 5 percent signifies a housing emergency and grounds for rent stabilization. Kingston’s survey showed 1.57 percent.

Landlords claimed the city did a poor job of tallying up empty units, polling just one-third of city property owners, counting properties where the landlord did not respond as fully occupied and skipping others entirely. 

State Supreme Court Judge David Gandin determined those claims weren’t enough to toss rent control.

Because state law doesn’t specify the way municipalities should measure vacancies, “it is not this court’s function to second-guess [the city’s] methodology or results,” Gandin wrote in the decision, ruling that Kingston acted “in a reasonable manner.” 

“The mere presentation of some disputed issues of facts provides an insufficient legal basis for the Court to invalidate the study,” Gandin concluded.

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The Hudson Valley Property Owners aren’t taking that decision sitting down. 

“We look forward to appealing and having our day in court,” Rich Lanzarone, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

In the meantime, Lanzarone’s group is celebrating the court’s decision to toss the rent reduction approved in November by Kingston’s rent guidelines board. 

Gandin ruled that state law does not authorize a rent board to implement a reduction. 

“The RGB lacked statutory authority to simply declare rent adjustments for all subject units based on fixed percentages,” his decision reads. 

It’s unclear whether the city will appeal that ruling, but at least one state lawmaker alluded to further legal action. 

State Assembly member Sarahana Shrestha, a socialist who represents Kingston, said in a statement she was disappointed the rent reduction had been denied. 

“But I know that that fight isn’t over yet,” she added. 

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