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Queens Chronicle

Crowley, Schneiderman talk renter protection

Officials meet with western Queens residents to discuss future moves

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Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2018 10:30 am

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held a roundtable with western Queens residents and housing rights activists in Woodside on Monday to discuss tenants’ rights and how to alleviate rising rents and combat predatory landlords.

“The essence of it was to communicate to both myself and to the attorney general the concerns that our residents, our renters, here in Woodside and the general Queens area, have about the ever-increasing rents in the community,” Crowley said following the roundtable, adding that other issues residents brought up included the continuance of major capital improvements and landlords forcing tenants out of leases.

“We need to ensure that rents are stabilized, that they are not increasing at a rate which is not affordable for our constituents to maintain.”

Crowley said the meeting — held at housing advocacy group Woodside on the Move’s headquarters — was “a good opportunity” to listen to constituents, and discussed his Rent Relief Act.

Under that bill, which he introduced last year, qualified individuals who live in rental housing and pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent would be eligible for a refundable tax credit.

The exact amount would be determined by taking into account the household’s annual income, the total amount spent annually on rent and a stimulated rate of the federal government’s established fair market annual rent caps.

“I mentioned work I’ve been doing on a national level to bring about a tax benefit to renters,” Crowley said. “We have one for homeowners, through the deduction of mortgage interest, but we don’t have a similar kind of benefit in terms of taxes for renters.”

Schneiderman said his office has been doing more to combat the issue of tenant displacement, including the formation of a harassment prevention task force alongside various state and city agencies.

That task force has already paid dividends, he said, citing last year’s guilty plea of Manhattan landlord Steve Croman — he was sentenced to one year in jail for harassing and tricking tenants into giving up their rent-stabilized apartments.

“We’re able to coordinate better with our counterparts and city and state agencies,” Schneiderman said. “We are very much advocating for changes in the laws now, in particular one statute that we discussed in there that makes it a crime to harass a rent-regulated tenant.

“The standards for this statute are so high, that no landlord in 20 years has been convicted of violating this,” he added. “So we are pushing very hard in Albany to modify it and make it possible for us to actually bring an action and not have all of the onerous requirements there.”

The attorney general added that another reform he is looking to pursue is altering the major capital improvements law, which allows landlords to implement permanent rent increases for rent-stabilized tenants.

Welcome to the discussion.