Housing

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Helen speaks out against illegal rentals at a rally before a Housing Committee hearing on Airbnb (January 20, 2015).

Preserving and building affordable housing is the single biggest issue that brings thousands of tenants into the district office. Helen and her staff have worked tirelessly to keep people in their homes by standing up to landlords and luxury high rise developers. Tenants PAC endorsed her in 2013 and again for her second term based on her record and the fact that she is the only person running for City Council in District 6 who has never taken a donation from a luxury developer. Helen has hosted free, monthly housing clinics and fought against tenant harassment, among many things. And, there’s always more we can do. Helen is already building on her successes from her first term. She plans to continue the fight for seniors and people with disabilities to stay in their homes as well as increase access to rent-controlled affordable housing. Read more below!

"Helen Rosenthal is exactly the kind of council member rent regulated tenants need on the City Council. She stands up to big developers and landlords, successfully led the effort for the rent freeze two years in a row, and is a steadfast ally when we are standing up to Republicans and the IDC to fight for stronger rent laws. Tenants PAC is proud to endorse her for re-election. Helen is the only candidate in this race (and 2013) who has never taken a donation from a real estate developer." - Mike McKee, Tenants PAC

Helen is taking the lead, here are some highlights (details below):

  • Helen funds free, monthly housing clinics.
  • Helen sponsored and passed "Stand for Tenant Safety" and "Anti-Tenant Harassment" legislation.
  • Helen sponsored and passed legislation to create an Office of the Tenant Advocate, which gives residents a negotiating platform equal to building owners.
  • Helen sponsored and passed legislation to make it easier for seniors and people with disabilities to stay in their homes.
  • Helen is a leading voice against illegal hotels.
  • Helen combats landlord harassment of tenants.
  • Helen secured 20% permanent affordable apartments, integrated among all floors, as well as an additional 20 family-sized middle income apartments at 606 West 57th Street.
  • Helen successfully fought against "poor doors."

Helen’s goals for the next four years:

  • Continue to fund free, monthly housing clinics and connect tenants to the organizers and lawyers they need.
  • Ensure that tenant safety and harassment protection legislative reforms are implemented as intended.
  • Continue to protect and fight for rent regulated tenants, seniors, and people with disabilities to stay in their homes.
  • Continue the fight against the IDC in the NYS Senate.

Helen Funds Free Monthly Housing Clinics

Helen funds free, monthly housing clinics where residents can learn about their succession rights, how to find affordable housing, and how to navigate housing court. Awareness programs about New York City rent freeze initiatives like SCRIE and DRIE are also provided. These clinics offer residents legal advice from housing lawyers, free of charge.

Helen Helps Individuals with Disabilities Stay In Their Homes

New York City has a rent freeze program for low income seniors and people with disabilities who live in rent-regulated housing. In 2014, the City expanded the income threshold for seniors from $20,000 to $50,000. However, this left behind people with disabilities. Helen is adamant about making it easier for people with disabilities to stay in their homes, particularly because this population may have trouble finding employment and tends to have high medical expenses. City Council passed Helen's bill, Local Law 39 of 2014, to expand the eligibility threshold for people with disabilities to $50,000. Because of the raised cap for both programs, an additional 13,000 people became eligible - helping both seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes.

Helen Combats Landlord Harassment and Supports Tenant Rights

Too many New Yorkers have seen their homes threatened by landlords who disrupt and endanger the lives of their tenants as they seek to harass them out of their rent-regulated apartments. Tenant safety and rights should not be at the mercy of landlords - all residents deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. Helen sponsored and passed two legislative packages containing almost 20 bills that support tenant safety and freedom from harassment. These bills constitute extensive, comprehensive reform for tenants - a big citywide win. “Stand for Tenant Safety,” Int. 0944, works to end construction as harassment: imposing additional penalties for performing construction work without a permit, increasing oversight for buildings where such work is performed, and requiring that work permits indicate whether or not a building is occupied. “Anti-Tenant Harassment,” Int. 0347, focuses on landlord harassment: allowing Housing Court judges to award damages to tenants who bring successful harassment claims against their landlords. Both of these reforms seek to level the playing field between tenants and their landlords, making it easier to hold landlords accountable for their actions. Another bill that Helen authored, Int. 1523, creates an Office of the Tenant Advocate within the Department of Buildings. This is a dedicated office for tenant services that is responsible for monitoring Tenant Protection Plans and responding to complaints and questions from tenants about construction. Helen is proud to have supported these protections and looks forward to continuing her work advocating for tenants rights. Helen and her work advocating for tenants has been featured in Crain'sCurbed NY, and The Real Deal - read more!

Helen is a Leading Voice Against Illegal Hotels

New York City has a severely limited housing supply; this situation is made worse by landlords who use residential apartments as hotel rooms. Helen has been outspoken about the issue of illegal hotels and the importance of using residential units as homes for New Yorkers. She introduced legislation (Int. 0541-2014) with Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez that increases fines for illegally converted residences reports on the work of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. Alongside Council Member Jumaane Williams, Helen successfully increased funding for this work by $2.6 million in FY15, another $1.2 million in FY16, and another $3 million in FY18.  

In October 2016, Helen was invited to testify to the Toronto City Council as it began discussions about regulating the short-term rental market. Along with coalition partners across the country, Helen reached out to US Senator Elizabeth Warren asking for Federal legislation to require Airbnb and other web based short-term rental platforms to abide by local law. Helen believes that a $25 billion (2015) now $36 billion (2017) corporation should not be able to chose which laws to follow — because Airbnb won't follow New York State law, taxpayers have to pay the price of enforcement as well as a loss of affordable housing.

Helen Secures Affordable Housing

Helen secured 20% of units and 20 family-sized middle income apartments for permanent affordable housing at 606 West 57th Street. These homes will be integrated throughout the building with the same amenities as market units. Helen also secured a new public pre-K where the developer will pay for the buildout and the Department of Education will lease the space. She also negotiated for the developer to pay for improvements to Clinton Cove, the local park. 

Helen Fights for Tenant Equality

In 2014, national and international press examined “poor doors,” the issue of apartment buildings with separate entrances based on rent status. The Upper West Side has two such buildings, 40 Riverside Boulevard and 1 West End Avenue, both of which received tax subsidies in exchange for providing affordable housing. While a New York Times editorial said that “poor doors” were a small price to pay for more affordable housing, Helen argued that this was a false claim: we can have affordable housing and still allow all tenants access to the same entrance and amenities. In June 2015, the City banned “poor doors.”

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