Williams Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council

New York City Council passed new tenant rights legislation earlier this month, promising to protect tenants from landlord harassment during buyout offers made to tenants in rent-regulated units. Landlords must now adhere to defined offer processes in order to guard against intimidation and coercion.

BuzzBuzzHome spoke with Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, the sponsor of one of the bills, about the new tenant rights legislation and how it fits into a larger movement about access to housing, particularly affordable housing.

Williams is currently the Deputy Leader of the Council and Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee. Originally elected in 2009, he was re-elected in 2013 to represent the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

“We took away one more weapon in the unscrupulous landlord arsenal,” he explained, noting that politicians and activists must constantly be on the lookout for unscrupulous landlord actions. “Landlords adapt. They’ll find a loophole.”

Williams also said that rent regulation issues and preferential rent are always top-of-mind, but he is quick to note that city government is not the only voice that affects housing access in New York City.

“There is no next frontier with affordable housing. The frontier is now. It requires action by the governor and state senate [to develop responsibly],” he said. Such state actions might include infrastructure investment, tax code and wage legislation.

Williams asserted that developers’ interests must be included in talks about housing access.

“I want more development. I want people to make money,” he said. With this in mind, he advocates for robust direct and indirect subsidies, such as allowing rezoning or negotiating building height to developers.

“If we’re doing all we can to protect the affordable housing we have, the question is: How do we provide enough direct and indirect subsidies when developers build?”

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