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Rent bill pending in Albany would hurt Island

Gov. Cuomo can make sure the ultimate legislation doesn't.

Tenants' rights advocates rally in front of Gov.

Tenants' rights advocates rally in front of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Manhattan office on June 12, 2019.

While the State Legislature’s efforts to expand rent regulations are intended to help residents by improving their ability to find and keep reasonably priced rental housing, one piece of the rent legislative package would have the opposite impact, especially in Suffolk County.

Lawmakers got rid of the most egregious provision, which would have stopped almost all evictions and limited rent increases. But the pending bill would allow communities to opt in to rent regulations if their vacancy rates sit below 5 percent.

That might seem like a good idea. After all, Nassau County already has rent regulations that have been baked into the area’s housing market and work well in places where there’s little land left for new development.

But in Suffolk, where there are few apartments and much open land to build them, the billwould have unintended, detrimental consequences. Rent rules would stifle attempts to build reasonably priced rental housing, as developers and lenders would find themselves unable to finance and build rental housing.

What’s more, it could lead landlords of existing rentals to consider converting them into cooperatives or condominiums, making the lack of rentals more dire.

Also concerningis how little anyone knows about how thebill would work, and where it would apply. Communities would do their own studies to determine eligibility, based on whether there’s a “housing emergency” when rental vacancy rates fall below 5 percent.

The impact of the rent law expansion is exacerbated by a possible requirement that developers pay prevailing wage, an hourly rate usually established in collective bargaining agreements, to nonunion workers, too, on projects that receive public funding or tax breaks. That, too, would hurt Long Island’s ability to build much-needed rental housing.

On rent laws, the legislature came to an agreement on its own. On prevailing wage, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has to play a significant role. Sources say he’s at the table, and his presence will be crucial. He understands the Island’s economic development needs, and can make sure the ultimate bill doesn’t hurt the region. He said Wednesday that he’d get involved on issues “when I can make a difference.”

Here, he would.

The editorial board

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