After months of organizing by local tenants and activists, the City of Kingston Rent Guidelines Board voted on November 9 for an unprecedented 15% rent reduction for all newly rent-stabilized properties. The rent reduction was a major achievement: no locality in New York had passed a rent reduction measure since the “Emergency Tenant Protections Act” (ETPA) was first enacted by the state in 1974. However, following a lawsuit filed by the Mid-Hudson Property Owners Association, a New York State Supreme Court justice ruled to temporarily block the rent reduction. The lawsuit also sought to overturn Kingston’s resolution to opt in to the ETPA, which stabilized rents in approximately 1,300 properties and authorized the creation of the Rent Guidelines Board to oversee annual rent increases (see Memo, 8/22). The judge indicated that a final ruling about Kingston’s rent stabilization resolution could be made in early 2023.
The Rent Guideline Board’s historic decision to reduce rents reflected strong advocacy by dozens of local tenants and activists who, over the course of a few months, held rallies, knocked on hundreds of doors, and testified at two public hearings. The board also voted to establish a nearly three-year long ‘look back period’ to consider adjusting rents in stabilized buildings that have increased by more than 16%. Tenants who were subject to higher rate increases between January 1, 2019, and August 1, 2022, can now file a one-time Fair Market Rent Appeal to New York State’s Department of Homes and Community Renewal. However, no appeals will be processed until the lawsuit is settled.
“We are disappointed with this decision [to block the 15% rent reduction] and respectfully believe the judge is misinterpreting the law,” said Aaron Narraph Fernando, communications lead at For the Many. “The Kingston Rent Guidelines Board’s actions were not just legal, but also completely necessary to keep tenants in their homes. Fortunately, other provisions of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act remain in effect.”
For more information about the advocacy efforts that led to the rent reduction, contact Brahvan Ranga, political director of For the Many.