Ulster Co. court temporarily halts Kingston rent reduction
Lana Bellamy is reporting for the Times Unionan Ulster County Supreme Court judge November 18 temporarily blocked Kingston's Rent Guidelines Board's rent reduction measure for the properties covered by the Emergency Tenant Protection Act. The decision by Judge David M. Gandin came about a week after the board voted, 6-3, to enact a 15 percent rent reduction for the 64 buildings, which include about 1,200 rental units in Kingston. It was the first time in the state's history that a rent guidelines board approved a rent reduction. Last month, a newly formed group of landlords called the Hudson Valley Property Owners Association, sued the city to prevent it from entering into the tenant protection act. The group claims Kingston was able to adopt rent stabilization because the city improperly conducted a housing vacancy study. The rent guidelines board vote to reduce rents came after months of organizing by tenants and activist groups, including For the Many, Citizen Action, the Mid-Hudson Valley chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, as well as the statewide coalition Housing Justice for All. Kingston became the first city north of the New York City suburbs to adopt a rent-stabilization law earlier this year. The local housing activist group, For the Many, issued a statement condemning the court's decision."This reduction was carefully deliberated by the [Kingston Rent Guidelines] Board after hearing data about Kingston’s rising rents, as well as testimony from over 70 tenants and their supporters. Tenants described their outrageous rent hikes (some as high as 70 percent), arbitrary fees, and deteriorating apartment conditions. The vast majority called for a rent reduction. For comparison, only six landlords testified in opposition," according to the group's statement. The matter will be the subject of a November 22 hearing in Ulster County Supreme Court. Read more in the Times Union.