Pol Blinks on Rents
40G income limit

Daily News Albany Bureau

ALBANY Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno yesterday softened his drive to end rent regulations for more than 2 million New Yorkers, saying he will consider keeping protections for people with incomes of up to $40,000.

"I recognize that a program that's been in existence for 50 years has to be deregulated with some thought and not just with a meat cleaver," Bruno said at a news conference.

Bruno (R-Rensselaer) said he had not decided how to protect "the lowest-income people" from skyrocketing rents and how to define that group. But he said a recent Manhattan Institute study showed that some tenants of rent-regulated units already pay as much as 60% of their income in rent, and he would use that as a guide.

"We want to know who those people are, what is that income level," Bruno said. "I think that income is somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 or $40,000."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who promised a battle to keep rent regulation, said Bruno's remarks were "a step in the right direction." Silver said he is "flexible in terms of change" to the current system but expects to propose a bill to that "would probably keep a lot of the system intact."

Gov. Pataki said Bruno's position represented "precisely the type of intelligent dialogue . . . we need to achieve common ground."

Bruno said that the existing $20,000 income limit on a subsidy program that protects elderly tenants from steep rent hikes is "too low," and that he would seek to raise it "substantially."

Bruno said he still wants to end current rent regulation, arguing that it has cost the city $10 billion a year in lost tax revenue. "An atom bomb would have created less of a problem, literally, in New York City to the real estate market than rent control has in 46 years," he said.

Bruno vowed earlier this month "to end rent regulation as we know it." He said he would allow rent laws to expire on June 15 if the state Assembly and Pataki did not agree to abolish them within two years for all tenants except seniors and the disabled.

Tenant groups said yesterday that Bruno's latest proposal was unworkable. "It's absurd," said William Rowen, a board member of the Metropolitan Council on Housing. "How many new state workers would it take to look at the incomes of 2 1/2 million people?"

Landlord groups said they would support expanding government subsidies for low-income tenants, but opposed existing rent laws. "If the person needs assistance, rent regulation is the wrong way to provide a subsidy," said the Community Housing Improvement Program's executive director, Dan Margulies.

Original Story Date: 12/31/96
Original Story Section: News Fix