Frequently Asked Questions on ETPA
Information is drawn from the 2017 Housing Needs Assessment, with updates of current Village actions. For additional information regarding ETPA, including charts illustrating the current Westchester communities where ETPA is in place, click here to read the Policy Framework recommendations from the Village’s Housing Needs Assessment.
What is ETPA?
In 1974, New York State created a provision called the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) that allows municipalities located in certain suburban counties in the New York Metropolitan Area to adopt a form of rent stabilization. While Westchester County is one of the counties included in the ETPA, each individual village, town, or city must formally adopt ETPA under the condition that there is less than a 5% housing vacancy in the jurisdiction. When a building in Westchester is rent stabilized under ETPA, the annual allowable rental increases are determined by the Westchester County Rent Guidelines Board. Additionally, the operation of rent stabilized units is regulated by rules promulgated by the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). These rules establish requirements for lease renewals, establish building maintenance standards and penalties, and provide processes for building owners to recover the cost of capital improvements through bounded rental increases.
What buildings may be included in the ETPA program?
The renter protections under ETPA can only be applied to be buildings constructed prior to 1974 and with six or more units. ETPA also require landlords to offer tenants 1 or 2-year lease renewals.
Has Ossining considered implementing ETPA in the past?
Ossining has considered ETPA several times in recent years. Attention to affordability and the possibility of adoption was raised in the early 2000s. By the summer of 2005, residents were writing op-eds in local papers and pressing for the adoption of the ETPA in Ossining. Many were particularly alarmed at the rising rents in developments like Claremont Gardens. The pro-ETPA sentiments remained strong and alive for at least the next year. Although the beliefs likely remained among some in the community, the push to adopt ETPA did not resurface until 2016 when several protests were held in support of ETPA and at least one public forum was devoted to its discussion at a Village Board meeting.
In September 2016, a housing vacancy study was completed for all multifamily units in buildings with six units or more constructed before 1974. The Multifamily Vacancy Study, conducted by Community Housing Innovations, concluded that the vacancy rate for these units is approximately 3.09%. Vacancy data, published in Housing Ossining Technical Paper #1: Quantitative Analysis, indicates that the vacancy rate for rental building is 5.09% for all rental buildings within Ossining for the period between 2011 and 2015. The New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal does not provide concrete guidance on the best way to perform the vacancy study for the purposes of determining a locality’s eligibility for rent stabilization. There are no regulations suggesting that the vacancy rate cannot be determined on the basis of a subset of total properties as was done as part of the Community Housing Innovations Study.
What other Westchester communities currently have ETPA in place?
There are currently 19 municipalities in Westchester County that have adopted ETPA. The vast majority of these municipalities adopted ETPA’s provisions in the 1970s, but two, Croton-on-Hudson and the City of Rye have adopted since the year 2000. The table included on page 21 of the Housing Needs Assessment Policy Framework contains information pertaining to ETPA for all of these communities including the minimum number of units in a building needed to trigger ETPA, the year the municipality adopted ETPA, and the approximate number of units covered by ETPA in the municipality. The number of units covered by ETPA is estimated through an examination of the local budgets where each municipality is entitled to collect a $10 administrative fee from landlords for each unit. The vast majority of ETPA units in Westchester are in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and New Rochelle.
What are the potential community benefits of ETPA?
If the Village of Ossining adopted ETPA, at least 1200 rental units could be potentially subject to rent stabilization. These 1200 units constitute 29% of the Village’s total number of rental units and 14% of its total number of housing units. As such, EPTA could ensure long-term affordability for current residents at a dramatically greater scale than what could be provided through inclusionary zoning, a program whose effectiveness is limited to the increased supply of new housing units. It is possible that the number of rent stabilized units would decline due to high-rent deregulation, high-rent high-income deregulation, or the conversion of rental buildings to owner occupied condominiums or cooperatives. Nonetheless, there is no other mechanism available to the Village of Ossining that can come even close to tempering exorbitant rent increases as would adoption of ETPA.
Moreover, ETPA not only regulates the permissible amount of rental increases. It also enfolds buildings into a state regulatory structure in which maintenance issues, lease renewals, and capital improvements are supervised by DHCR. The adoption of ETPA also allows for the locality to adopt rent increase exemption programs for disabled persons and seniors.
The combined effect of price regulations, complaint procedures, and lease renewals all help to protect economically and racially diverse residents from being displaced as a result of rental fees, landlord retaliation for building complaints, or broader gentrification patterns. Due to data limitations, it is difficult to accurately gauge recent rental increases and displacement levels in ETPA eligible buildings. Anecdotal evidence, however, does not suggest exorbitant price increases or massive displacement currently unfolding in ETPA eligible buildings in Ossining. However, given the rising costs of housing in New York City and development patterns in Westchester, it is indeed possible to imagine that significant increases in rental rates could eventually occur in Ossining. The adoption of ETPA would help protect residents from being displaced from their homes in the event of such price increases.
What are the challenges and limitations of ETPA?
Inasmuch as ETPA protects renters from dramatic price escalations or building maintenance problems, the effectiveness of the current legislation in meeting housing needs is constrained by the limited pool of buildings eligible for inclusion. As noted above, the state law only allows for rent stabilization to be applied to buildings constructed prior to 1974 and with six or more units. This means that 70% of the village’s rental units and 86% of total housing units would not be affected at all by the adoption of ETPA. Newer and smaller rental buildings would not be subject to rent stabilization. The fact that ETPA covers only a segment of the village’s total number of housing units is problematic on two levels. First, adoption of ETPA would create a bifurcated code enforcement process in which some buildings would be overseen exclusively by the Village Building Department whereas other buildings would be subject to oversight by DCHR as well as the Village. The greater issue, however, is that much of the Village’s challenges with regard to building maintenance issues and overcrowding reside not in the larger apartment buildings eligible for ETPA but within smaller buildings not eligible for ETPA. As such adopting ETPA, in and of itself would still leave a significant set of housing issues unaddressed.
A second problem with ETPA is that it is not a need-based affordable housing program. Although there are provisions for deregulation on the basis of a household’s income exceeding $200,000, there is no regulation or enforcement mechanism that ensures that rent stabilized apartments are rented to households requiring lower priced apartments on the basis of their financial need. Rent stabilization and succession provisions may compel tenants to stay in their units for a long period even if the unit no longer matches their housing needs. As such, tenants in greater need of affordable housing may have less access to stabilized units than tenants with a lower need for affordable housing. It should also be noted, however, that most ETPA eligible buildings are not luxury, high amenity buildings. As such there is a very high possibility that ETPA buildings would serve a great number of lower income households regardless of the lack of means testing.
Critics of ETPA have also suggested that ETPA would reduce a building’s net operating income, making it harder for building owners to meet the financial costs of building maintenance and also leading to lower tax revenues on account of building devaluation. However, it should also be noted that economic evaluations of rent stabilization programs in Westchester and New York City do not reveal that rent stabilization broadly reduces the capacity of the owners to afford maintenance expenses. The degree of building devaluation is also difficult to gauge as it depends on the rent increase permitted by the rent guidelines board and the gap between stabilized rents versus market rents.
ETPA may require increased administrative burdens on the part of the locality in order to meet the reporting requirements mandated by New York State Department of Housing & Community Renewal. However, the degree and extent of this burden may be more than offset by the community benefits from preserved affordable housing. More significant, however, may be the administrative burdens experienced by landlords with regard to lease renewals, complaint procedures, and capital improvements. These burdens may in turn make it harder rather than easier for landlords of ETPA eligible apartment units to expediently resolve building condition issues.
Is the Village Board implementing ETPA now?
Prior to any vote on whether to implement ETPA, the Village must conduct a Housing Vacancy Study to determine if there is a lower than 5% vacancy. The majority of members of the Village Board of Trustees are seeking to undertake a Vacancy Study. The results of this study will determine if the Village Board is then able to vote to enable ETPA. The Village issued a Request for Proposals (linked here) seeking qualified consultants to conduct the study. Two responses were received. They were considered and discussed at the April 25, 2018 Village Board Work Session. At the May 2, 2018 Legislative Session, the Village Board will vote on a resolution to engage in a contract with the firm Community, Culture & Environment for their services to conduct a Housing Vacancy Study.