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Nassau has role in rent control debate

As rent control laws become a sticking point in state budget talks, it’s worth pointing out that such housing regulations do not solely apply to New York City. Nassau has more than 9,000 rent-stabilized housing units, according to the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

So there was Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) Wednesday standing at a raucous news conference with more than 20 other Democratic lawmakers calling for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to include a renewal of rent regulations as part of the budget process.

Schimel did not speak at the rally-like event, but I caught up with her afterward.

“It’s not just a New York City issue. It cuts across all areas,” Schimel said. “I felt that it’s certainly a discussion that Long Island has to be a part of.”

Many Democrats want rent regulations to be part of budget negotiations because that’s where Cuomo, a Democrat who grew up in Queens, has the most leverage over Senate Republicans, who have traditionally tried to change the regulations in favor of landlords. More than one million apartments in New York City have rent increases regulated by state law and local governing boards.

Cuomo initially didn’t want rent control to be included in the budget. Then, last week, he said the issue was “connected” with a cap on property taxes and should be part of the budget. Now, Cuomo says it appears unlikely rent control or property taxes will be part of the budget. Complicating matters are Senate Republicans who say a property tax cap may not happen at all this year without mandate relief.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said this week he doesn’t want rent regulations or the property tax cap in the budget, saying he didn’t think they were urgent enough matters.

Rent in New York and across the country was first regulated during World War II to prevent housing price inflation during a wartime boom. The practice was continued in New York state and modified in 1974 by the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, which allowed rent guideline boards to control rent increases in some apartments in Nassau, Westchester and Rockland counties.

Rent control advocates say they don’t want to see a repeat of 2003, when renewal of the regulations was left until the end of the session. Senate Republicans passed an extension of the law favorable to landlords and then told the Democrat-controlled Assembly to take up that bill or adjourn the session and let the regulations expire altogether. The Assembly caved and passed the Senate version.

The issue could be a major obstacle to an on-time budget this year. On Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued a statement calling extending and expanding tenant protections a “top priority for me.

“I believe it should be included as part of the budget,” Silver’s statement said. “As a recent report released by the Assembly documents, more than 10,000 rent-regulated apartments are lost in our city each year. We must act to save our threatened stock of affordable housing and protect working families from being priced out of their neighborhoods.”

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