Rent control repeal fizzles in New York

After months of speculation that New York would phase out rent control, the state’s legislature passed an eleventh hour compromise this past June that kept rent regulation in New York City, giving owners a few concessions.

An existing provision called “luxury decontrol” was expanded slightly, inheritance of rent-controlled apartments among family members was restricted somewhat, and rent escrowing in conflicts became required (the latter may help get rent escrowing in Massachusetts).
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But otherwise, the full system of rent control remains. The hoped-for compromise — vacancy decontrol of all units — simply did not happen.

The rhetoric was the same as in Massachusetts: elderly will be out in the streets, New York will lose “diversity.” Lost in the hysteria was the fact that rent control puts an unfair public burden on private citizens.

Slightly expanding “luxury decontrol” was the only feature of the New York compromise to affect rents. A previous exemption decontrolled all units with rents over $2,000 renting to tenants earning $250,000 annually or more. Under the compromise, the income threshold for decontrol was lowered to $175,000, preserving rent control for vast numbers of tenants who obviously don’t need below-market rents.

The anti-rent control mood of the country, which reached its high mark here in Massachusetts in 1994 with the full removal of rent control, spread to California, which enacted statewide vacancy decontrol beginning in 1998, and then came nearly to a halt in New York. About 22 states have already outlawed rent control, while another two dozen or so still have some sort of rent control.

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