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JMGarcia
June 8th, 2003, 04:38 PM
Jun 5th 2003 | NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition

Rent controls, New York's particular bane, are poised to receive yet another unwelcome extension

IT WAS one of many price controls brought in during the grim, panicky period between the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 and America's move to a full wartime economy in 1943. The housing market was seen as another thing that needed to be rationed or, at least, regulated—alongside rubber, petrol, coffee and shoes. By 1947 all these controls were phased out, except property-price regulations. Most cities have since scrapped these market distortions; the capital of capitalism has not.

Only one-third of New York City's 2m rental apartments are free of some kind of price restraint. A city board sets annual increases and administers an ever more complicated system. In some buildings, people live in similar apartments but pay wildly different levels of rent. In others, lone grandmothers sit in huge apartments, aware that moving would mean paying more for a smaller place elsewhere.

The oldest controls cover pre-1947 buildings (including any number of lovely houses on the city's most fashionable streets): these have average rents of $500 a month. A second tier, covered by rent stabilisation, rent for $760. Unregulated apartments cost an average of $850, but this number is deceptive, since it includes the worst buildings in the outer boroughs.

Technically, new construction is free from these constraints. In fact, a complex system of tax inducements persuades most clever builders “voluntarily” to agree to rent-stabilisation restraints. Not surprisingly under these conditions, building is anaemic; even with the largest surge in construction since the 1960s, the number of building permits issued in the past year will add less than 1% to New York's housing supply. Needless to say, in such a sclerotic system, the poor suffer most.

On June 15th, 60 years after this “temporary” measure was introduced in New York City, rent control once again comes up for renewal by the state government in Albany. It will almost certainly pass. Back in 1997, the then free-market-friendly Republican state Senate and the then free-market-friendly state governor, George Pataki, tried to get rid of rent restraints, but ran into fierce resistance from the Democrat-controlled assembly. “What exactly is ‘homeland security' if your homes are not secure?” cried Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, at a recent rally.

A compromise “reform”, won in 1997 against the odds, removed only 23,000 renters from a pool of almost 1m. The wretched 23,000, cruelly deprived of price controls, qualified for this punishment either by having income of more than $175,000 for two consecutive years and living in apartments whose rent was above $2,000 a month, or by moving into empty apartments costing more than $2,000 a month.

Buried in the 1997 agreement, however, was a detail that moved the next re-approval date to a time when no elections were due. If any time was right for debating the issue on economic rather than emotional grounds, it should be now.

In the intervening years, however, New York's politics have changed. A grinding recession and the sharp drop on Wall Street seem to have blunted state politicians' enthusiasm for market forces. The same governor and state Senate that fought for the cause in 1997 have lost their nerve. At best, they will keep the reforms won six years ago. Truly opening up New York's housing market is no longer on the table.

This is odd, because there is growing evidence that the transition from a strictly regulated to an unregulated market is less painful than people like Mr Silver make out. The most striking example has been in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where tight restrictions were lifted in 1994 after 23 years. A study by Henry Pollakowski, an economist at the MIT Centre for Real Estate, shows no dire consequences. Instead there has been a huge surge in housing investment, even allowing for the 1990s housing boom.

It is hard to find any economist who supports rent restraints. Price controls, even if laboriously tweaked, inevitably produce inefficiencies, reduce supply and cause bad side-effects. Black markets and bribery thrive. Building maintenance is often ignored. Landlords and tenants find themselves in poisonous relationships, since they are linked by law rather than by voluntarily renewable contracts. Unscrupulous property owners go to dangerous lengths to evict tenants in order to get higher-paying replacements; as a result, tenant-protection laws have been enacted that make it almost impossible to evict even a scoundrel.

Meanwhile, a vast bureaucracy has grown up to administer the price controls, supported by volunteers and litigators. The property owner who misses a filing deadline, or has his paperwork mislaid, can be blocked from even permissible rent increases. Given all this, most sane New Yorkers would rather eat their money than join the rentier class.

Oddly enough, for those landlords adept at navigating the system, returns are likely to be unaffected by price caps, as long as properties were acquired after they had been imposed and the potential for income is understood. Indeed, although the press depicts the fight over price restraints as tenants versus landlords, it is more accurate to see it as tenants paying a below-market rent versus tenants who, in effect, pay the cost of this subsidy, says Peter Salins, the provost of the State University of New York and co-author of a book on New York's housing market (“Scarcity by Design”, Harvard University Press, 1992).

Who, then, are the lucky tenants? According to another study by Mr Pollakowski, most benefits go to tenants in lower and mid-Manhattan, where the residents are relatively wealthy. The city's poorer folk, most of whom live in the outer boroughs, receive little or nothing. Perhaps the strongest argument offered by supporters of rent control is that it promotes stability; but, typically, long-term tenants in unregulated markets receive similar concessions, since it is in a property-owner's interest to retain dependable renters in his buildings.

Mr Salins says the members of the state legislature are well aware of all the basic arguments about the evil effects of price controls on the property market. They believe even more strongly, however, that voters do not like getting socked with rent increases. For New York's politicians, it is a time of small thoughts.

Kris
June 8th, 2003, 09:51 PM
I'm not qualified but I'd be surprised if the article were wrong. Astounding hypocrisy. Deregulation coupled with zoning revisions (preferably a revision of the stiff system itself) would probably do far more to ease the housing crisis than subsidies.

JMGarcia
June 8th, 2003, 10:57 PM
Although the article choses Cambrige as an example, deruglation of rents has proven in many other cities across the country that rents will fall and supply and quality increase after deruglation.

Agglomeration
June 9th, 2003, 01:08 PM
My hypothesis is that NIMBY's advocate rent control in some apartment to keep themselves insulated from the outside world, probably because they're afraid of it.

Also we need a deeper report on whether or not rent controls (or rent deregulation) lead to dilapidated apartments and decaying infrastructures, either due to corruption, bureaucratic malaise, or simple lack of money.

Ptarmigan
June 9th, 2003, 09:26 PM
Rent control is a bad! It will only destroy a community. Rent control leads to shady deals and landlords having no incentive to maintain it. Also, you would end up paying lots for one simple thing like a door knob or lock.

Kris
June 14th, 2003, 07:44 PM
June 15, 2003

When Rent Control Just Vanishes

By DAVID W. CHEN

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 10 — With rent-stabilization regulations in New York set to expire tomorrow, the usual suspects are doing their heartfelt best to frame the debate. In one corner are tenant advocates, who say that rent regulations cushion thousands of people from the abyss of poverty. In the other corner are landlord advocates, who say that the regulations stifle any free-market impulses to build and rehabilitate housing.

And yet, to prove that their exhortations are based more on experience than on ideology, both sides are fond of citing the same example: how rent control was eliminated in the metropolitan Boston area.

True, the pace of residential construction in Boston has accelerated since rent control was repealed in 1994. True, too, more neighborhoods that were once considered dangerous or dilapidated are becoming gentrified and more attractive to developers. But equally true is the fact that more working-class families, faced with soaring rents, are moving two or three area codes beyond the 617 exchange, and that homelessness and overcrowding are cresting. So parsing out how rent decontrol has influenced these changes is subject to a good deal of interpretation.

No one believes that New York lawmakers will literally follow the lead of Massachusetts and, with one stroke, wipe out the rent laws that regulate more than one million apartments in New York City. Instead, what is likely to happen sometime tomorrow or a short time later, lawmakers and housing groups predict, is that the regulations will be extended, with some tweaking.

Still, the recent finding that more than 10 percent of the city's rent-regulated apartments have gone on the open market or otherwise been removed from regulations since the Legislature began relaxing the rules in 1993 has raised the prospect, once unthinkable, that New Yorkers may one day live in a world without rent guidelines. If so, then Boston may offer the rough-draft, smaller-canvas embodiment of what could happen in New York.

There are some significant differences, of course. Boston's vast student population distorts the market. New York's rent-regulated universe of one million apartments dwarfs the Boston area's former pool of roughly 45,000. New York's system also relies heavily on variables that did not apply in Boston, like household income and monthly rent levels.

By the early 1990's, rent control was a major force only in the city of Boston and two neighboring communities, Cambridge and Brookline. Still, in 1994, the Small Property Owners Association, a coalition of landlords in Cambridge vigorously opposed to rent control, led the drive for a statewide referendum. And with a blunt campaign called "Get Government Out," they exposed prominent residents who clung to steal-of-a-deal rent-controlled apartments — including a judge and the mayor of what rent-control opponents liked to call the "People's Republic of Cambridge."

To much surprise, the referendum passed, 51 to 49 percent, despite overwhelming opposition in the places that still had rent control. As a result, rent control had to be dismantled within a couple of years.

"To me, the phase-out is the best way to put an end to the reliance on rent control," said the chief executive of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, Edwin J. Shanahan. "It's almost like an addiction. So instead of going cold turkey, you have the rent-control equivalent of a methadone clinic."

Since then, Mr. Shanahan said, the "magic of the market" had transformed the region into a more attractive, if more expensive, option for developers and young professionals. And one of the most popular trends has been the conversion of the area's ubiquitous "triple deckers," or three-level wood-frame houses, into condominiums that are sold by the floor.

According to Boston officials, the median advertised monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is now about $1,600, up from $882 in 1995. In Cambridge, the comparable rent is roughly $1,700 now, up from $1,163 in 1996.

One landlord, Joe Maffe, said that under rent control, he had had so little leverage with a tenant in a two-bedroom apartment in a prime location (Beacon Street near the Boston Common) that the man was able to avoid paying the $302-a-month rent for 12 years. "Twelve years!" Mr. Maffe exclaimed, adding that he had ultimately paid the tenant $6,000 to move out. Now, the rent on that apartment has climbed to $4,800 a month, allowing Mr. Maffe to make vital capital improvements for the first time in two decades.

"Rent control," he said, "was a failed social experiment."

In addition, permits for multifamily buildings in Boston increased. From 1998 to 2001, 2,569 permits were granted compared with 420 from 1991 to 1994. More out-of-state developers, who Mr. Shanahan thinks had been scared off by rent control, are coming to Massachusetts.

If there has been any disappointment, Mr. Shanahan conceded, it is that virtually all the new construction has been of high-end luxury apartments. And that shortcoming lies at the core of the tenants' arguments that rent decontrol has been deleterious.

There is no shortage of statistics and studies buttressing these arguments. For something local, look at "The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2002" prepared by the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University and two other organizations. Or at federal census figures for Cambridge, which reported a 30 percent increase from 1990 to 2000 in the number of households that spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent.

And for something national in nature, thumb through "Out of Reach," a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which studied what is known as housing wages — the amount of money someone would have to earn per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at a fair-market rent. Boston, with a housing wage of $25.83 an hour, now ranks fifth on the list of least affordable metropolitan areas. It had been 11th in 1998. (New York City, interestingly enough, was not on either list.)

"I think the repeal of rent control in Boston has been a disaster," said Peter Dreier, Boston's housing director from 1984 to 1992, who is now a professor of urban policy at Occidental College. "The victims of the repeal of rent control are usually invisible to people who make public policy and run for office, because they've been pushed out or they're hiding because they're doubled up."

There is no shortage of anecdotal body blows, either, about how rent decontrol has given places like Boston and Cambridge an increasingly transient nature and a widening income gap.

Countless parishes are losing longtime parishioners who are unable to afford the escalating rents, weakening the neighborhood fabric, said Kathy Brown, coordinator of the Boston Tenant Coalition. People in working-class neighborhoods like Dorchester and Roxbury are moving to places more than an hour's drive away, like Brockton and Fall River or Providence, R.I., said Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston.

"It's worse than ever before," Mr. Menino said. "Working people have been forced out. More people are doubled up. We've got the highest level of homelessness the city has ever had, due to the rental increase. That's not a healthy city."

As part of his housing agenda, Mr. Menino proposed last year to revive a version of rent control. But in November, the City Council narrowly rejected the idea.

Even if Mr. Menino had prevailed, he would have faced an arduous political task in winning the State Legislature's approval. But now, Cambridge tenants are urging their City Council to try a revival of its own. And on Monday night, they achieved a small victory, when the council voted to support a lawsuit, soon to be filed, that would make it easier to put rent control on the local ballot in November.

"We were viewed as Cassandras," said Michael Turk, who is a member of a new group called the Committee for Cambridge Rent Control, "but my God, it's actually worse."

One new — and so far, effective — method of preventing evictions is a housing version of collective bargaining, in which a landlord and a tenant group negotiate proposed rent increases, with the city playing mediator, said Steve Meacham, an organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana, a tenants' group. Mr. Meacham's group has been involved in about a dozen such cases.

One current example involves a 12-unit building at 90 Wrentham Street in Dorchester that recently changed ownership. The new landlord wanted to almost double the rents he charged tenants like Shirlane Reason, who works in customer service at Children's Hospital Boston, and Clarence Merriweather, a truck driver. Stunned, the residents formed a tenants' association, contacted Mr. Meacham and are now set to negotiate with the landlord later this month.

"It's like a guerrilla war, is what's going on," said Bob Van Meter, executive director of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, which develops low-income housing. "It's building by building, block by block."

Some landlord advocates are unimpressed. They do not see why some tenants insist on remaining in the same neighborhoods. Why oppose mobility, they say, especially if there are job opportunities elsewhere?

But no matter what the logic of their arguments in their own minds, they also want to guard against complacency over the possible return of a law that has had such a divisive and exhausting history.

"It's like fishing," said Lenore Monello Schloming, the president of the Small Property Owners Association. "If you catch a fish and you get him out of the water and he's flopping in the sand, you have to make sure he doesn't get back in the water. Rent control is like the fish."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

ZippyTheChimp
June 17th, 2003, 05:19 AM
June 17, 2003

Rent Laws Extended Again, in Albany Standoff

By WINNIE HU


ALBANY, June 16 — New York's expiring rent laws were extended for another day today after Gov. George E. Pataki and legislative leaders were unable to resolve their differences over an issue that affects more than a million New York City apartments.

This was the second time in a week that the Democratic-led Assembly and the Republican-led Senate extended the rent laws, which were originally set to expire Sunday night at midnight. In 1997, Albany leaders did not strike a deal until after the rent control and stabilization laws had expired, provoking widespread concern.

Legislative leaders seem determined to keep that from happening this time, though there would be little, if any, immediate effect on tenants, since most are still protected by their leases. In instances where there is no lease, state law requires a landlord to give 30 days' notice before evicting a tenant.

Brian Honan, legislative director for Tenants and Neighbors, an advocacy group, said that just the threat of losing the rent regulations caused anxiety among many apartment dwellers. More than a dozen people came to the Capitol today to hand out fliers and to lobby legislators.

"The phones are really starting to ring off the hook," Mr. Honan said. "People are nervous about losing their apartments. People don't understand what's going on. What these legislators, and the governor, don't seem to understand is that this is not just a bill, it's people's security."

While Albany leaders have repeatedly pledged to renew the rent laws, they have remained deadlocked over the issue of vacancy decontrol — or luxury decontrol, as some people call it — a provision that allows landlords to eliminate rent regulations on vacated apartments once the monthly rent reaches $2,000.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the $2,000 threshold was no longer realistic, since rents have risen so much in recent years. Governor Pataki and Senate Republicans have disagreed.

In search of a compromise, legislators and advocates in both chambers have proposed several alternatives to an outright repeal of vacancy decontrol, such as increasing the threshold to $2,500. On the other side, opponents of rent regulations have proposed lowering the threshold to $1,500.

Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, who heads the Assembly housing committee, said Assembly Democrats would continue to push the rent issue, perhaps even linking it to other end-of-session business.

"We have limited leverage," he said. "We can trade off, hopefully, things that are remaining in order to get some adjustment in that luxury decontrol. Every day there's negotiations. If they fail, we will do a one-day extender."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
June 17th, 2003, 05:50 PM
They ought to wait until the economy fully recovers before ending rent controls.

BrooklynRider
June 18th, 2003, 09:40 AM
I support the phase out as it exists, which will likely continue. *Any vacated apartments that rented for over $2,000 will revert to market price. *

There are alot of people in rent stabilized apartments who jump on the Jitney out to their summer homes. *I'm not saying it's a majority, but it a well financed minority who infiltrated the system and hijacked it for personal gain. *I would support the imposition of income limits on stabilization as well. *I agree with the notion that individuals making $175K/year or more should NOT reap benefits of rent stabiliztion & control.



(Edited by BrooklynRider at 2:18 pm on June 20, 2003)

Kris
June 20th, 2003, 05:57 AM
June 20, 2003

Rent Board Lowers Recommended Increase

By DAVID W. CHEN and WINNIE HU

In a concession to tenants last night, the board that regulates the rents of about a million New York City apartments shaved a percentage point off a proposed rent increase. But hours later in Albany, state legislators fought past a midnight deadline over the future of rent stabilization itself.

Landlords were disappointed by the action of the Rent Guidelines Board, citing spiraling costs for property taxes, fuel and insurance. But still, the new increases of up to 7.5 percent were the largest since 1989.

The board, in a 5-4 vote shortly before 7 p.m., approved a 4.5 percent increase for one-year leases and 7.5 percent increase for two-year leases — down from the 5.5 percent and 8.5 percent figures that the board initially recommended on May 5.

In separate votes, the board proposed an annual increase of 3.5 percent for residential hotels — a reduction of a half a percentage point from the May 5 vote. The board did not change its increases on lofts of 4 percent for one-year leases and 7 percent for two-year renewals. The increases apply to leases renewed in the 12 months after Oct. 1, 2003.

And shortly before midnight, Gov. George E. Pataki and Senate Republicans pulled a surprise by introducing and passing a new bill that would extend the rent law by eight years, until 2011, and weaken it by allowing landlords to deregulate more apartments. It would also limit the City Council's authority to influence the rent laws. Assembly Democrats said they would oppose the Senate bill, apparently creating an impasse as the rent laws were expiring.

The Assembly passed two different versions of its own bill, a straight four-year extension of the current law and a one-year extension.

There was expected to be little, if any, immediate impact on tenants, since most are still protected by their leases. In cases where there is no lease, state law requires a landlord to give 30 days' notice before evicting a tenant. Indeed, the last time the rent laws were to expire, in 1997, the Legislature allowed them to lapse for four days before they renewed them.

"We're right now in a really scary place," said Brian Honan, legislative director for Tenants and Neighbors, an advocacy group. "This is a real attack on not only tenants, but also affordable housing in New York."

The vote by the rent board — the first to be made up mainly of appointees of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — suggested that city officials were trying to be sympathetic to tenants in a time of economic distress punctuated by steep budget cuts, tax increases, a subway fare increase and the residual effects of the Sept. 11 attack.

"I think we were looking at the big picture, and the morale of the city," said Martin A. Zelnik, one of five new members on the board. "There's something to be said for a moral victory" in reducing the rates, he said. "I think we want to send a message to the city that we were listening."

Whether Mr. Bloomberg actually had a hand, subtle or otherwise, in persuading the members to back down from their preliminary vote was not clear. Marvin Markus, the chairman of the board, said after the vote that Mr. Bloomberg and Daniel L. Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, "had no input" in the decision-making process.

The tenant population is a major force, based on numbers alone. Of the city's three million dwelling units, about two million are occupied by renters, though nationally only about a third of dwellings are rental units.

Of the city's two million rental units, about one million are stabilized units subject to the board's decisions. About 350,000 more are rent-controlled apartments, public housing and other government-related residences. The remaining 650,000 units are not regulated.

Every year, the board adjusts rents for the million regulated apartments. There has never been a rent decrease or rent freeze. After last night's vote, the tenants who packed the United States Custom House in Lower Manhattan voiced their displeasure by yelling, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

Landlords were disgusted, too.

"I'm astounded," said Jack Freund, executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association, an owners' group. " This board is intent on destroying the existing housing that we have. This board cannot do its math."

At the same time, though, some board members, as well as people in attendance, noted that they were distracted by what was going on in Albany. The rent laws, originally set to expire last Sunday, were already extended four times by special legislation in the past week.

The main sticking point was high-rent vacancy decontrol, a provision that allows landlords to eliminate regulations on vacated apartments once the rent reaches $2,000 a month. Mr. Silver, backed by tenants' groups, has called for repealing the provision, saying that it undermines the entire system by phasing out apartments.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
June 21st, 2003, 01:41 AM
June 21, 2003

Albany Extends Landlord Power Over Rent Curbs

By WINNIE HU with DAVID W. CHEN

ALBANY, June 20 — Senate Republicans forced through a measure today that would allow landlords to take thousands more New York City apartments off rent regulation in the next eight years, outmaneuvering Democrats who had sought to prevent a further erosion in rent protections for tenants in a million units.

A stunning night of political power plays in the Capitol ended with the State Legislature's renewal of the expiring rent laws in a way that strengthened the power of landlords to charge market rents for more of their apartments and left intact rules that have led to the deregulation of thousands of units.

Led by Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, Senate Republicans introduced and passed a bill to extend the rent laws shortly after they expired just after midnight.

The bill included provisions that were described by some legislators and tenants' groups as favorable to landlords and repugnant to tenants. One Democratic senator, Eric T. Schneiderman, called it a "declaration of nuclear war on rent-regulated tenants in New York."

Senate Republicans and George E. Pataki, the Republican governor, engineered the surprise move to introduce their own bill, which codified existing regulations that allow landlords to start charging market rates for vacated rent-stabilized apartments once the rent reaches $2,000 a month even if they later charge less.

While these Republican leaders said their changes would not immediately result in more deregulated apartments, tenants' groups argued otherwise. It was a major blow for the groups, who had sought to revise the rent laws to include more tenant protections.

After passing the bill, the Senate Republicans hastily dispatched it to the Assembly and filed out at daybreak to adjourn for the summer. Mr. Bruno, who had vowed to end the legislative session on Thursday, said he was done talking and would not revisit the issue.

Because the New York Legislature does not have a procedure to resolve conflicting bills passed by the two chambers, the Assembly Democrats were left with a difficult choice. They could accept a bill that could deregulate thousands of apartments whose rents creep up beyond the $2,000 mark — more than 300,000 apartments over the next decade, according to estimates by tenant organizers. Or they could allow the rent law, which technically expired at 12:01 a.m. today, to fade away entirely.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who had wanted to raise the rent level at which apartments become deregulated and add additional protections for tenants, angrily accused Governor Pataki and Senate Republicans of mounting a "sneak attack" to gut the rent-regulation system in New York.

"There's only one word for all of it: shameful," Mr. Silver said. "I vow to you that this conference will carry on the fight beyond today for the tenants of this state."

The Assembly Democrats, still in session this evening, passed the Senate bill shortly before 8 p.m. by a vote of 106 to 38. Members said they were reluctant to walk away from the rent laws entirely, or to gamble that the Senate would eventually come back for more negotiations. So they called it quits in what amounted to a weighty game of political chicken.

From the start, Republican leaders made it plain that the intent of their bill was to erode what they say is a system of government price-fixing that has outlived its usefulness.

The system covers about a million rent-stabilized and 60,000 rent-controlled apartments in New York City, whose rents are kept at below-market levels to ensure there is a supply of apartments available for working-class and poor New Yorkers. There are about 2 million rental units in the city. Tenants' advocates argue that the rent laws are the only protections left for families who have gradually been priced out of their own city.

Governor Pataki immediately signed the bill, which was effective retroactive to 12:01 a.m. today.

"This is a very good, common sense approach," the governor said today, adding that the changes would reinforce a rent system that works well already.

The new law strengthens existing regulations that make it easier for landlords to deregulate apartments in the long run, and also further limits the ability for New York City to influence the state's rent laws. Under the new law, the city will be allowed to make decisions only on renewing its own city rent laws and deregulating certain categories of apartments.

Lobbyists for the tenants' groups seemed exhausted by the swift turn of events, and could do little more than mourn what they saw as a lost opportunity to safeguard the rent system for future generations. In particular, they had wanted the repeal of high-rent vacancy decontrol, the provision that allows landlords to charge market rents for vacant apartments after the monthly rent of a regulated apartment reaches $2,000 a month.

"There can be no doubt that the purpose of this bill is the final destruction of the rent laws over the next eight years," said Michael McKee, associate director of New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition, an advocacy group. "Their tactic of unveiling the deregulation plan at the last minute, in the dark of night, is reprehensible."

But Senate Republicans and several landlord groups stressed that the bill put forth largely technical changes that would clarify the existing mechanism for deregulating rent-stabilized apartments, rather than create any new ones.

Almost all people in rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments are permitted to keep their rent protections for as long as they keep their homes.

If they die, their immediate family members can inherit the protections with the apartments, provided they have lived in them. Six years ago, state lawmakers adopted amendments that let landlords deregulate vacant units if they get the legal rent up to $2,000 a month.

The law, known as high-rent vacancy decontrol, allows landlords to charge any rent the market will bear after the apartments are deregulated.

"No one is in jeopardy," Senator Bruno said. "Not one more unit is placed in decontrol, not one."

Several advocates for landlord groups said that while they would have preferred legislation rolling back the rent laws, and allowing market forces to become more of a factor in New York, they were not unhappy with the way things turned out.

"We are glad that in fact the status quo has been maintained," said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, a major owners' group.

New York's rent laws date back to World War II, in one form or another, and the current system of rent stabilization evolved from a 1974 state law, known as the Emergency Tenant Protection Act. The law applied to New York City, and to any municipality in Westchester, Rockland and Nassau Counties that chose to opt into it. Nearly all of the affected units are in New York City, however.

After weeks of closed-door negotiations, Albany's leaders remained deadlocked on the rent laws right until the end. The laws, which were originally set to expire last Sunday, had to be extended four times by special legislation — for one day each time — to keep them from lapsing.

For most of today, many tenants scrambled desperately to find out what was happening in Albany.

One tenant leader, Dave Powell, director of organizing for the Metropolitan Council on Housing, said that tenants would continue to fight for the city's right to have more say over the fate of its housing.

"Perhaps we were naïve to think that we could rely on any justice for tenants from the Legislature, the Assembly included," he said. "We're painted into a corner at this point. It's do or die."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
June 21st, 2003, 01:52 AM
June 21, 2003

A Partnership Renewed, and a Victory in Albany

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

ALBANY, June 20 — When the dust settled today after a 24-hour game of legislative brinkmanship, one political reality was clear: the Republican governor and the Senate majority leader had patched up their differences and outmaneuvered the Democratic majority in the Assembly.

Just a month ago, the leader of the Senate Republicans, Joseph L. Bruno, was at war with Gov. George E. Pataki and forged an alliance with the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, to pass a budget over the governor's veto. Mr. Bruno suggested in public that Mr. Pataki was a liar. The governor vowed to go after Senate Republicans in the next election.

There was talk of a new day in Albany, with a lame duck governor and a muscular Legislature willing to take on the executive branch and win. The Republicans were splintered and the governor wounded. The Assembly Democrats were crowing.

But the partnership between Mr. Bruno, a rural conservative, and Mr. Silver, a Manhattan liberal, evaporated during the chaotic last week of the regular legislative session, before the summer break. By the time it was over, Mr. Bruno and the governor had not only mended their ties but had also given Mr. Silver a beating on two critical issues: rent laws and the regulation of lobbyists.

"What we observed on the budget turns out to be a momentary blip where people's interests happened to coincide," said Blair Horner, a lobbyist for the New York Public Interest Research Group and a student of Albany politics. "We are now back to where we always were, which is partisan bickering and policy gridlock on important issues."

Mr. Bruno emerged from the fray as a clear winner. He left the bargaining table this spring with most of what he wanted this legislative session in the new state budget that he and Mr. Silver agreed upon. That left him with little incentive to compromise on any of the bills taken up in the last-minute crush of the legislative session. So he didn't.

Mr. Pataki, meanwhile, has worked to repair relations with Mr. Bruno since the veto-override debacle in May. He went to a barbecue this week at Mr. Bruno's farm to hobnob with senators he had threatened to oust only six weeks ago. He spent hours on the phone with Mr. Bruno, going over what went wrong in the budget battle, aides said.

Nowhere were the shifting alliances between Albany's powerful trio more apparent than on the issue of rent control, a question of importance to Mr. Silver and the block of urban Democrats who support him.

Mr. Bruno is opposed to government price-fixing on rents. He lost a fight in 1997 to repeal the law. This time, he refused every effort by Mr. Silver to tie rent laws to the budget, insisting that it be negotiated last.

But, after waiting, Mr. Silver was handed a take-it-or-leave-it offer, a surprise Senate bill that passed just before the law expired that would extend the current law for eight years. Mr. Silver could only accept the Senate's bill or allow the rent laws to expire.

Today, Mr. Silver called the bill "a sneak attack," as the dejected Assembly Democrats voted to accept it.

Mr. Bruno also joined Mr. Pataki to outflank the Assembly Democrats on a bill that would have made lobbyists who try to influence the awarding of state contracts disclose their earnings and clients.

After voicing support for one bill, the Senate shifted its support to the governor's version. That version not only has a narrower definition of what qualifies as lobbying of state authorities and agencies, but also includes a task force to investigate judicial corruption, a sensitive issue for New York City Democrats because of the scandals over judge selections in Brooklyn.

As a practical matter, Mr. Bruno's decision to pass the governor's bill and then leave for summer vacation has effectively blocked the passage of any lobbying reform, for now. Unlike other legislatures, New York's legislature does not have a procedure for resolving differences between bills, so when the two chambers pass different versions of the same bill, often nothing is enacted.

The governor and Mr. Bruno said today that they were over the acrimony from the budget battle. People who work for them, however, say the hard feelings are not entirely gone, and mistrust lingers. Still, they say, the governor has softened his once imperious way of dealing with the Senate. Mr. Bruno, in turn, has decided to help the governor on issues like lobbying and rent, so long as the governor continues to cooperate.

One reason for Mr. Bruno's return to Mr. Pataki's side is that they share political philosophies on most issues. But another is personality. The senator hates wasting time, and Mr. Silver's well-known penchant for using delay as a negotiating tactic drives Mr. Bruno crazy, aides say.

"If you don't have a deadline, you just keep rehashing," Mr. Bruno said today, "and if you keep rehashing, you don't even make good hash."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Alex
June 24th, 2003, 08:14 AM
Article:

Why Rent Control is Immoral

http://www.aynrand.org/medialink/rent.html



(Edited by Alex at 8:20 am on June 24, 2003)

Kris
July 1st, 2003, 09:56 AM
July 1, 2003

Learning From China

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

When I lived in China, I periodically wrote scathingly about its Communist housing system and state-controlled rents. But China has had the courage to turn increasingly to a market economy for housing.

Now there's hope that New York will do the same.

At a time when New York City is grappling with a fiscal crisis that is forcing it to close fire stations and cut library hours, you'd think it might consider eliminating rent restrictions. After all, William Tucker, who has written a couple of books on the issue, estimates that rent regulation costs the city at least $2.3 billion a year in lost property tax receipts and extra spending.

Now the New York State Legislature is imposing a plan that will lead over the next eight years to the deregulation of many thousands of apartments as their rents exceed $2,000 a month. That's a step in the right direction, toward capitalism.

Everybody has a favorite rent control story. Most involve widows rattling around five-bedroom Central Park West apartments that they can't afford to leave because they're paying only $500 a month. Mine goes back many years to when I was single: a live-in boyfriend and girlfriend split up acrimoniously, but continued to share a bedroom because neither would give up their wonderful rent-controlled deal. I had designs on the young woman, but it was entirely too awkward to date her with her ex glowering a few feet away.

Supporters of rent regulation have their hearts in the right place, and they make an impassioned plea:

There may be inefficiencies in rent regulations, but what about the inefficiency of lifting them and forcing hundreds of thousands of poor and middle-income families out of the city? Kids will be forced to change schools, adults will be forced to look for new jobs or face long commutes, and the entire character of the city will change. Artists, musicians and starving actors cannot afford the $10,000 a month that an unregulated Manhattan apartment can rent for, so the city will become a dull dormitory for pasty-white investment bankers.

This kind of argument rests on two false assumptions.

First, it's not true that the beneficiaries of rent control are disproportionately poor. The winners are not the poor but those who have rented the same apartment for decades; the biggest losers are those starving actors who move to New York and try to find a place to live, because vacancy rates of under 3 percent are far below the national average of 9.4 percent.

Second, if all rents were freed, they would not rise to the $10,000-a-month level. On the contrary, research suggests that currently unregulated rents would actually drop.

Right now, rents for unregulated apartments are high because they make up only one-third of the market, so they are bid up to artificial levels. If prices were freed, then retirees who spent most of their time in Florida would give up their artificially cheap three-bedroom apartments, and there would be a surge of both vacancies and new construction. Because of regulations, the average rent in New York City is only $706, and that would rise, but the real rents that people actually pay when they find new apartments would fall.

"Detailed research and analysis," says Peter Salins's study for the Manhattan Institute, reveals "the extent to which these interventions harm, rather than protect, New Yorkers."

So New York is roughly in the position of China a decade ago: everyone knows the socialist housing model is lousy, but people worry about the transition to a market economy.

But that concern, while legitimate, may be overblown. I used to live in Cambridge, Mass., which lifted rent controls in 1994 amid dire warnings of hardship. In fact, Cambridge enjoyed a housing boom that improved the quality and availability of housing. Henry Pollakowski, a housing economist at M.I.T. and editor of The Journal of Housing Economics (soon to be a major motion picture), found that freeing rents led to a 20 percent increase in housing investment.

"Such an increase represents a considerable potential boon to the city's residents, and should draw serious consideration from New York City policy makers," he observed.

Yes, it should, and it's reassuring that the state has prodded the city toward decontrol of some rents. I'm glad that New York is showing almost as much commitment to capitalist reforms as China. *


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
July 6th, 2003, 10:44 PM
July 6, 2003

Analyzing Rent Law's Impact

By JAY ROMANO

THE changes in the newly renewed state law that covers rents in as many as a million apartments, most of them in New York City, were comparatively minor, largely amounting to restatements of existing regulations or judicial decisions. The way in which the law was renewed, though, reflected the brinkmanship and maneuvering typical of legislative fights over rent regulation, and evaluations of the new law's long-term effects also followed predictable patterns.

Before dawn on June 20, several days after the laws that protect rent-regulated tenants had originally been set to expire, the New York State Senate voted to renew the rent laws for another eight years and went home for the summer.

That left Assembly Democrats facing a bitter dilemma. They could pass the Senate version of the renewal — one that did not include measures they favored to slow the removal of apartments from rent regulation. Or they could pass their own, more "tenant friendly," version of a renewal bill knowing it was highly unlikely the measure would become law because the Senate was no longer around to vote on it.

Opting for the former course, the Assembly passed the Senate's renewal bill by a vote of 106 to 38. Gov. George E. Pataki then signed the bill into law, making it retroactive to 12:01 that morning.

And while a guarantee of eight more years of rent regulation might seem like a victory for tenants, most tenant advocates voiced bitter disappointment.

"Under the current rent laws there has been an accelerating rate of deregulation," said Timothy Collins, a Manhattan lawyer who frequently represents tenants. "And the current vacancy decontrol regime is a long-term death knell for rent regulation."

Under vacancy decontrol, Mr. Collins explained, if the legal rent that can be charged for a vacant apartment is $2,000 or more, the apartment is no longer subject to rent regulation. Since it is relatively easy for landlords to get the maximum allowable rent above $2,000 when an apartment is vacated — generally, by upgrading the apartment and then adding one-fortieth of the cost of the renovation to the rent and taking a vacancy allowance of as much as 20 percent — vacancy decontrol is bitterly opposed by tenant groups.

Another form of decontrol — luxury decontrol — allows for the deregulation of an occupied apartment whose rent is $2,000 or more and whose tenants earned more than $175,000 in each of the past two years.

Since vacancy decontrol is the most common way that apartments are removed from regulation, tenant advocates had been lobbying legislators to repeal the decontrol provisions in the renewal law.

Sherwin Belkin, a Manhattan lawyer who represents landlords, and who said that he believed that the tenant advocates were overstating the potential impact of high rent decontrol, said that the renewal law as enacted contained only three changes; all are basically legislative reaffirmations of judicial decisions, existing law or regulations.

"The one that will take the most tenants by surprise has to do with preferential rents," Mr. Belkin said. He explained that until recently, under rent stabilization, when an owner charged a tenant a rent lower than the maximum allowable regulated rent, that lower rent was called a "preferential" rent and was considered the base rent for as long as that tenant occupied the apartment. In such a situation, the landlord would be able to revert back to the higher legal regulated rent only upon a vacancy.

Several years ago, however, the Appellate Division ruled that if a landlord had charged a rent lower than the allowable rent — and made it clear in a lease rider that the lower rent was for one lease term only — the landlord could eliminate the "temporary rent concession" at the end of the lease term and revert back to the maximum allowable rent.

"The renewal law seems to obliterate the distinction between a preferential rent and a temporary rent concession," Mr. Belkin said, explaining that now if an owner charges a rent lower than the allowable regulated rent, the owner will be able to revert to the higher rent upon either renewal or vacancy. "The law does not even seem to require a lease rider," he said.

Another provision in the renewal law, Mr. Belkin said, affirms a regulatory amendment made to the "high rent vacancy decontrol" section of the rent stabilization code in December 2000 by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

He explained that before the amendment, there had been some dispute as to whether the $2,000 rent threshold for decontrol was met when the maximum allowable rent had reached that level or only after the apartment was actually rented for $2,000 or more. The distinction, Mr. Belkin said, was critical to landlords who were legally able to charge $2,000, but were unable to find a tenant willing to pay that amount.

Now, however, when a regulated apartment is vacated, and the legal rent that can be charged is $2,000 or more, that apartment is permanently deregulated whether or not the next tenant in occupancy pays $2,000.

The third thing the Legislature did with the renewal law, Mr. Belkin said, was "re-enforce" a 1971 law known as the Urstadt Law. The Urstadt Law, he said, basically prohibits local governments from imposing — through the use of local laws or ordinances — stricter controls on housing than the controls provided under state rent laws.

"Over the past year or so, we've heard lots of noise from the City Council and the mayor's office that the city itself should be able to control rent regulation in New York City," Mr. Belkin said. "But with the legislative re-enforcement of the Urstadt law, the state has now said to the city, `Hands off, this is a state issue, and even though it regulates New York City apartments, you can't touch it.' "

While the third change might appear to be rather arcane, it is disturbing to tenant advocates. "What this really does is choke off home rule in the city," said Mr. Collins, the Manhattan tenant lawyer. "And that's a shame because the City Council is really close to the ground on rent regulations."

Jenny Laurie, director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, a tenant's rights organization, observed in the organization's current newsletter that as a result of the Legislature's "tightening" of the Urstadt Law, "pending bills in the City Council to reform the Rent Guidelines Board (an attempt to get fairer rent increases for rent-stabilized tenants) and to change the rent increase formula for rent-controlled tenants," which the Rent Guidelines Board sets each year, this year at a 4.5 percent increase for one-year lease renewals and 7.5 percent for two-year renewals, "will be barred."

The most infuriating aspect of the renewal law for tenant advocates, however, is the time period it covers.

"The law's eight-year term is the killer," Ms. Laurie said in an interview. "In eight years, hundreds of thousands of units will be deregulated, so that at the next expiration date of the rent laws in 2011, there will be far fewer rent-stabilized tenants to lobby for their renewal." *


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
January 7th, 2004, 04:03 AM
January 7, 2004

Tenants Vent Their Anger at Hearing on Rent Increases

By DAVID W. CHEN

One elderly tenant, a World War II veteran, testified that he feared he would not be able to absorb the biggest proposed increase on rent-controlled apartments in a decade. Another, who once worked as a lawyer for the very state agency that adjusts the rents, warned that the proposed increase — of roughly 15 percent over two years — would hurt "the most vulnerable of all tenants."

But perhaps no one stirred as much emotion yesterday at a public hearing in Lower Manhattan as Paula Glatzer, a retired magazine editor, who said that she was befuddled by how the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal had computed the increases. At one point, she got into an exasperated exchange with David B. Cabrera, an assistant commissioner of the state agency.

"Are you refusing to tell us what your role is?" she asked, generating a cacophony of sarcastic comments from the audience, directed at a stoic Mr. Cabrera. "You're talking to me like I'm in an insane asylum!"

Rent hearings typically generate spirited debate, but yesterday's was particularly passionate. The proposed increases would affect about 36,000 of New York City's roughly 60,000 rent-controlled apartments, a subsector of real estate that is known for having some of the lowest rents in New York City.

State officials say the increases are justified because of a surge in costs to landlords, including real estate taxes and insurance.

But if the tenants' anger was palpable, so, too, was the sense that everyone attending the all-day hearing was essentially powerless to do much to change anything. Under state law, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal must calculate proposed increases every other year, hold a public hearing and, barring any egregious mathematical errors, approve the increases.

Most tenants and landlords anticipate that it will be only a matter of weeks before the state allows landlords to charge the maximum increase permitted by law for the next two years, probably retroactive to Jan. 1. That means more people will face a 7.5 percent increase in each of the next two years than at any time since the late 1980's or early 1990's, state officials and tenant groups say.

Rent control, the original form of tenant protection, dates back to the 1940's, and is different from the much bigger system of rent stabilization, which applies to one million rental apartments in New York City. Generally, rent control applies to apartments in buildings constructed before 1947 in which tenants have lived continuously since 1971.

Whenever a rent-controlled tenant vacates an apartment, that apartment enters the rent-stabilization system. Between 1975 and 2002, the number of rent-controlled apartments dropped by 91 percent, to roughly 60,000 from 642,000.

But if rent control is a dying system, it is one that has spawned its share of idiosyncratic tales, some even true, about people paying a couple of hundred dollars for a commodious space on Park Avenue, or those who would rather give up spouses than apartments.

The reality is far more complex. The median monthly cost of rent-controlled apartments is $500. The median annual income of the tenants is slightly above $20,000. Roughly two-thirds of those tenants are over 62 and living on fixed incomes.

Any increases are applied not uniformly, as they are for rent-stabilized apartments, but rather according to a complicated formula based on the "maximum base rent" for each apartment.

State housing officials said that their research this year concluded that the maximum base rent should be adjusted by 17.2 percent because of higher real estate taxes, water and sewer rates and energy costs — the biggest adjustment since 1976 but one that is rendered moot because of a 7.5 percent annual cap.

To landlord representatives who spoke at yesterday's hearing, the proposed increase, while insufficient, was enough of a step in the right direction to help landlords keep pace.

"The historically low rents of controlled apartments, and the limitations on the permitted annual increase, make this proposal a bargain for tenants and a hardship for owners," said Jack Freund, executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group.

But to the tenants who showed up, any increase would be almost too much to bear. It was also frustrating, they noted, that only a legislative act by Albany could change the formulas or the laws.

"I live in fear with these increases," said Patricia McGovern, who pays $1,069 for a rent-controlled apartment in Tudor City in Manhattan. "They're just out of control. Why should I worry at this point of my life where I have to live, and how much I have to pay?"


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Ninjahedge
January 7th, 2004, 11:39 AM
While I do feel for them I have a few things to say.

First: YOU ARE RENTING!!!!!
Second: YOU ARE IN THE CITY!!!!!
Third: YOU ARE RENTING!!!!

These people were, for various reasons, unwilling to buy anything in the 30-40 years they lived in the city. They did not move, they did nothing! I know that there are a few cases in where these people should really be taken into special consideration, but there are still a lot that I have very little sympathy for.

NYC is not a retirement village! Maybe there should be some sort of thing set up where the owners could opt to pay for a portion of the tenant's stay in a retirement home, combined with municipal help, instead of living in the apartment. Say that $1000 a month place that one woman is in. Realistically it may be worth up to $3000 a month! Require the landlord to pay a % of the difference to her or her family in exchange for her moving out. Have the city and state offer a break in a retirement home for her so she could afford it on a similar rental price.

No, instead we have landlords that cant afford their taxes, and old people you cant just kick out on the street.

>sigh<

There has to be a solution to this, instead of just blantantly ignoring whatever is convienient.

Kris
January 13th, 2004, 01:08 AM
January 13, 2004

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Unstable and Out of Control

By MARIAN L. SACHS

In what has become an annual ritual, tenants of many of New York City's 60,000 rent-controlled apartments berated the state officials responsible for computing their rent increases at a hearing last Tuesday. Tenants were understandably upset — they face 7.5 percent rent increases in each of the next two years. But their landlords, whose operating costs increased more than 17 percent this year, did not have much to celebrate either. The hearing provided yet another vivid illustration of how dysfunctional the city's rent regulation system is, and how it worsens the very problems it was created to solve.

Virtually every New Yorker has heard stories about the wealthy widow living alone in a spacious apartment with Central Park views for $400 a month. While some of these tales are apocryphal, many are true. Indeed, when Ed Koch was mayor, he kept his rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village for less than $300 a month while he was living (rent free) in Gracie Mansion.

Of course, underlying these tales is a combination of jealousy toward the lucky tenants and anger at the arbitrary nature of the city's rent regulation laws, which apply to about one million units defined as "rent stabilized" as well as to the much cheaper rent-controlled apartments.

In the last few years, the State Legislature has taken small steps to move some of the rent-stabilized apartments back onto the open market: in June, it passed a rule that allows vacated apartments to be phased out of the system once the rent hits $2,000 a month. The change, however, did not affect rent-controlled apartments. These incremental reforms show that creating a truly fair system can occur only if the current laws are phased out altogether.

Rent regulations, which were established in the post-World War II era, are intended to preserve neighborhood diversity and stability, and to ensure that rents do not jump to levels that only the wealthy can afford, forcing lower-income residents to cheaper areas. But in practice, such laws do not really serve diversity well; they simply freeze the status quo, so neighborhoods remain only as diverse as they are now, which isn't very diverse at all.

An apartment can only be rent-controlled if it is in a building constructed before 1947 and if its current tenant (or his family) has occupied it since 1971. Such an apartment becomes "decontrolled" only when those tenants leave and no relative assumes the lease. Then, it enters the rent stabilization system. Likewise, rent increases for rent-stabilized apartments are limited until the tenant moves out, when the "legal rent" (a fiction that has nothing to do with market value) can be raised about 17 percent to 20 percent. Tenants in these apartments have a strong interest in staying put, since they can't take their rent subsidy with them.

Part of the problem is that rent laws are only loosely tied to income, and where they are, the ceiling is far too high: households with incomes up to $175,000 a year are eligible for stabilized apartments, and there are no income limits on tenants of rent-controlled apartments. And while rent- controlled tenants claim to be the most vulnerable city residents, 13 percent have incomes greater than $70,000 per year (as do more than 19 percent of rent-stabilized tenants), according to a 2002 census housing survey.

Furthermore, because the laws make no effort to match the least well-off with the cheapest apartments, studies have found that households with incomes greater than $75,000 receive twice as much subsidy as households with incomes less than $10,000.

Nor do the laws aid diversity. Contrary to popular belief, most city neighborhoods are not that diverse. Data from the 2000 census reveal a sharp disparity in Manhattan, where most rent-regulated apartments are. For example, one tract on the Upper East Side is more than 95 percent white, while a tract around West 125th Street is 97 percent black. Rent regulation, which rewards people who stay in their apartments for a long time, has done little to increase diversity in those tracts. And, of course, the system does nothing to protect a truly needy person not fortunate enough to occupy a regulated apartment already.

The rent regulation scheme is no more precise in distributing its costs than it is in bestowing its benefits. While tenants are protected, landlords have to pay market rates for all of their expenses, including real estate taxes, insurance, water and fuel oil, all of which have risen steeply in recent years. Real estate taxes rose 18.5 percent this year, and insurance costs for many owners have jumped 50 percent since 9/11. Yet rents on stabilized apartments went up this year just 4.5 percent for a one-year lease or 7.5 percent for a two-year lease. Why should landlords, unlike purveyors of virtually every other commodity in New York, be prohibited from setting their own prices?

Moreover, by distorting the relationship between property income and expenses, rent regulation depresses the returns on property, which in turn causes landlords to underinvest. My family, which owned more than 1,000 units of residential housing in the Bronx and Manhattan for 80 years, experienced this firsthand. When ownership costs skyrocketed, as they did during the 1970's oil crises, we watched other landlords simply abandon hundreds of buildings. In addition, for decades there was no incentive to build new units since they would have been subjected to the same system. To this day, these dynamics continue to contribute to the crisis in the availability of moderate income housing.

A better way to create more affordable housing and to diversify neighborhoods would be to replace the current system of rent regulation with a subsidy system similar to the federal Section 8 housing program. Vouchers would be distributed to those who qualified based on explicit criteria defined by state and city lawmakers. The costs would be borne in the same manner as other government programs — through a progressive tax system. If preserving affordable housing is a virtue, then society as a whole should bear its costs.

Maria L. Sachs is a lawyer who owns rental properties.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Wrightfan
August 3rd, 2005, 03:16 PM
a well financed minority who infiltrated the system and hijacked it for personal gain.

So I guess I did so by signing on to my apartment lease 20 some odd years ago?
Gosh, I had no ideas I was "infiltrating the system", I just thought I was trying to find a place to live.

BrooklynRider
August 3rd, 2005, 05:29 PM
Wow - I'm defending as post from TWO YEARS ago. This must be some sort of record.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wrightfan-

You wouldn't want to tell us what size unit you are living in, what neighborhood and the price - would you? What was the percentage of your rent increases over the last three years? Do you work?

Before you come barreling at me (TWO YEARS LATER!), level the playing field by disclosing relevant info.

And, if you fall into the CONTEXT in which I made that statement, then yes YOU ARE a part of that well financed minority.