Editorial: Stony Run Stone Walled – Tenants Should Be Heard
The deal worked out between Aker and Mayor Steve Noble calls for a 40-year regulatory agreement to maintain the complex as “workforce” housing affordable to those making up to 120 percent of the Area Median Income. Aker would transfer ownership of the complex to a specially-created nonprofit housing trust. The trust in turn would maintain a capital improvements fund for maintenance and upkeep
The tenants union, in a joint statement with progressive advocacy group For the Many, called the agreement a “backroom deal” and demanded more time for a legal review. They also want to know what the deal could mean for the future of rent regulation citywide, and that tenants be given access to the complex’s financial and maintenance records and representation on the board of the housing trust. In as close a vote as that body’s had for a long time, and after the urging of tenants and supporters during the public speaking portion of the meeting last week, the resolution authorizing the deal was sent back to the Council’s Laws and Rules Committee for another look.
We could use terms like “stakeholder” and “shared consensus-making” and “buy-in from the neighborhood,” but we’ll just call this willful marginalization of Stony Run tenants what it is: deeply disrespectful of the people trying to live a halfway-decent life in Kingston without a six-digit income. If all this is being done on behalf of the residents, then why were they left out of the discussion? Not consulting them sends the message that as a class, the city wants to protect its low-income residents, but isn’t all that interested in them as individuals. Yikes — talk about dehumanizing.
And really, why was this deal rushed without consulting tenants? If the city and Aker are so hot to close the deal this quickly, they should at least explain why. At the March 7 Common Council meeting, tenant union organizing committee member Teresa Greene said that Aker representatives had told the committee that the company was in default on some of the construction loans and the complex was in danger of foreclosure. And Noble, in his letter to the tenants union, said that the complex faced a “serious threat” that required swift action. Again, we ask, why the deal was so rushed with so little transparency.
When given a chance to review the agreement with their legal counsel, For the Many and the Tenants Union said in statement today that, as written, it “directly contradicts” the ETPA “and is therefore illegal.” They cite the fact that Stony Run rents can only be set by the Kingston Rent Guidelines Board, but that the agreement “would allow vacated units to be converted into workforce housing with rents as high as 120% of AMI — $2,800 a month for a three-bedroom or even higher. This is not allowed under the ETPA, and could potentially undermine future vacancy studies and citywide rent stabilization.”