HOST INTRO: Tenants from across the city as well as elected officials gathered at Columbus Circle today. They want to get rid of a program that allows landlords to improve rent-regulated apartment buildings while passing on the cost of repairs to their tenants. Sophia Ahmadi reports.
No to MCI chants
AHMADI: Anita Long was one of the protesters at Columbus Circle today. She’s a senior citizen and she’s been living in her apartment in the Bronx for 29 years.
LONG: I love my apartment. I love my neighborhood.
AHMADI: Long’s apartment is rent-stabilized. A few years ago her landlord told her he would be making some improvements.
LONG: I’m going to put in a new elevator, new bathroom, a new kitchen. I thought it was great!
AHMADI: But several months later, Long received a letter from the state’s Department of Home and Community Renewal telling her that her landlord had requested a rent increase. He wanted another $115 a month extra for the repairs.
Even though Long lives in a rent-stabilised apartment, under the MCI or Major Capital Improvement Program her landlord can increase her rent. The MCI program was introduced back in the 70s. It was supposed to serve as an incentive for landlords to carry out routine property maintenance, like replacing faulty boilers and roofs.
But now landlords are being accused of exploiting the system to increase rent.
Senator Michael Gianaris is one of several lawmakers who want to change this. Gianaris introduced legislation that would eliminate rent increases as a result of MCIs and, if passed, would also roll back existing increases.
GIANARIS: The MCI program is out of control and it has been hurting tenants throughout this city year after year. The biggest crisis we have in New York is a housing crisis. People cannot afford to live here anymore, people are getting priced out of their homes.
AHMADI: Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz is another lawmaker standing behind the bill. She says that the MCI program is serving the pockets of multinational corporate landlords.
CRUZ: These are not the mom and pop landlords. These are the corporate Trump-like, Zara-like landlords that are using this to allegedly fix the front of the building, but instead are using it to become richer.
AHMADI: Senator Jessica Ramos was also at the rally and she says these MCIs are exacerbating the affordable housing crisis.
RAMOS: Money doesn’t just disappear just like it doesn’t grow on trees. And for a long time working class, New Yorkers have been squeezed, squeezed like a lemon for every single drop.
AHMADI: Since 1997, the city has lost over 280,000 rent stabilized apartments. And according to a state report over 50 per cent of New York City renters pay more than a third of their income in rent.
Anita Long is worried she’s going to be priced out of her out of her own apartment. She’s just been notified about another MCI that would cost her an extra $80 a month.
LONG: If we can’t afford it, then how many homeless senior citizens are you going to actually be seeing in the streets of New York?
AHMADI: Sophia Ahmadi, Columbia Radio News.