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Poughkeepsie unanimously votes to enact rent stabilization


POUGHKEEPSIE — The Dutchess County seat became the third city north of New York City’s suburbs to opt into the state’s rent stabilization law.


On Tuesday evening, the Poughkeepsie City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, authorizing the creation of a Rent Guidelines Board that will set yearly maximum allowable rent adjustments on units protected by the state law. It is expected to apply to about 1,500 units in buildings across the city built before 1974.


“This is such an exciting moment that we’ve been working towards for so long,” 40-year city resident Linda Bartee, an organizer with the tenant advocacy group Housing Justice for All, said in a statement. “My neighbors and I can rest a little easier in our homes tonight. But the fight isn’t over yet — we’ll continue to organize to expand these protections for all Poughkeepsie tenants.”


The vote came two months after the city released the results of its housing vacancy study. It found that 3.96 percent of rent units in residential buildings built before 1974 with six or more units were empty in November and December last year. That enabled Poughkeepsie to declare a housing emergency under the ETPA, the first step toward enacting rent stabilization.


According to the city’s 2022 Housing Needs Assessment, one in three Poughkeepsie renters spends more than half of their income on housing costs. The city’s population is just shy of 32,000 and more than 60 percent of its residents are renters, according to Census data.


Poughkeepsie’s study was conducted by the Collective for Community, Culture and Environment, a consulting group that began contracting with the city in October. Overall, the response rate was 61 percent and included 112 properties with 1,494 units. However, 30 of those units were considered unavailable for rent, which brought the total number of eligible units down to 1,464. Of those units, 58 were vacant, according to the report.


The council now has 30 days to appoint a local Rent Guidelines Board made up of tenants, property owners and public representatives to hear public testimony and vote on the rate of allowed rent adjustment for eligible units. The state Division of Homes and Community Renewal must approve the board.


To opt into the ETPA, municipalities have to establish a vacancy rate of 5 percent or less on buildings constructed before 1974 with six or more units. The ETPA was first enacted in New York City in the late 1960s and was expanded to Westchester, Rockland and Nassau counties in 1974. It became an option for all communities in the state when the state Legislature modified the law in June 2019.


Other Hudson Valley cities that have adopted rent stabilization have had their vacancy rate studies challenged by landlords in court, hampering their efforts to move forward with rent regulations. In March, a judge halted efforts to form a Rent Guidelines Board in Newburgh after a group of landlords sued over allegations its vacancy study conducted by the city’s Planning Department was based on flawed data.


Landlords also sued Kingston over its study, which temporarily stopped its Rent Guidelines Board from cutting rent by 15 percent. But they ultimately lost in court after a state appeals court affirmed its vacancy study and upheld the rent reduction in March.


Rich Lanzarone, executive director of Hudson Valley Property Owners Association — the landlord group that has led the legal challenges — said Wednesday the group disputes the results of Poughkeepsie’s vacancy study and plans to challenge it in court.


At Tuesday’s meeting, Poughkeepsie council members also introduced a resolution to adopt a version of the state’s new “good-cause” eviction law, which would expand tenant protections to renters not covered by the ETPA. Tenant organizers packed the meeting, urging the council to follow the example of Albany — which earlier this month became the first municipality to adopt the new legislation — and close what they described as a “loophole exemption” by redefining who qualifies as a small landlord.


A hearing on the “good-cause” eviction legislation was scheduled for July 2.

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