A state program called Major Capital Improvements, or MCI for short, was instituted at a time when the city's housing stock was crumbling and deteriorating. It was meant to incentivize landlords to make improvements to their buildings by allowing them to pass on some of that expense to their tenants in the form of rent increases.
The improvements and increases have to be approved by the Department of Housing and Community Renewal.
When it was first implemented, we're sure that the program served a valuable purpose. It was also before skyrocketing rents made every single building in just about every neighborhood in the city a cash cow.
That is, if it isn't rent stabilized. Landlords in rent-stabilized buildings are strictly limited by how much and how often the can raise the rent, but some tenants say unscrupulous actorss have found a loophole in the MCI.
Some new light fixtures here, a new gate at the entrance, some upgraded security cameras...next thing you know those expenses for sometimes unnecessary upgrades are being passed on to tenants who might see their rents increase multiple times in a single year.
But don't necessarily blame the landlords. DHCR is supposed to be overseeing the program and preventing it from being abused in this manner.
But tenants, including those at a rally outside a DHCR office in Jamaica last week, argue the agency is just a rubber stamp for the landlords.
We can't say that all landlords abuse the MCI program or that it should be eliminated. But if there is systemic abuse, the state needs to re-examine the program, and if it still serves a useful purpose, then update it to reflect the reality of the housing market in 2018 New York City and not 1978.