Tenants Rip Program Tying Rent Hikes to Landlord Investments
By Jillian Jonas | December 19, 2014
from City Limits
Bronx resident Soledad Franco has lived in her apartment since 1972, moving in when she was ten. A 2011 fire precipitated by an unlicensed electrician caused her to lose all of her belongings and become temporarily homeless. There have been at least four fires in the building since 2007—despite that, the owner won approval from state regulators on four occasions for extra increases to her rent.
Loraine Dellamore's building was allowed to deteriorate so badly and for so long that an organizer with the Flatbush Tenants Coalition (FTC) said the conditions were the worst she had ever seen, and included "sewage dripping on people's heads." As one of the tenant leaders, Dellamore spent two years fighting just to get basic repairs—and then contested the owner's bid for a rent increase, which she says was based on dubious costs.
Ed Maloney's Manhattan building converted to a condominium* in 2000. Soon after, the owner embarked on construction in some of the common areas. Much of it was done incorrectly or shoddily, which was well-documented by the tenant association, of which Maloney is president. Still, when the process was complete, Maloney's rent went up $171.68 per month.
They are three New Yorkers with a lot in common: All are long-term tenants living in rent-stabilized apartments. All underwent the process known as Major Capital Improvements (MCIs), where landlords can institute building-wide construction and raise rents in perpetuity—that is, pass the costs on to tenants, even after the work has actually been paid off. And all three believe they were abused by this system.