The Way Through Rent Madness

The way through rent madness

We prefer rules that protect families, not apartments

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No tenant advocate, no landlord association, no sane policymaker would design a rent regulation system like the one afflicting New York City today. Needy families struggle in vain to find affordable apartments, while Manhattanites earning six figures linger for decades in spacious units at laughably low rents. Some tenants shell out six times as much as their neighbors down the hall.

The system sets American capitalism on its head and instead has an obscure body called the Rent Guidelines Board arbitrate for 2.5 million New Yorkers and their landlords—after a cacophonous ritual of dramatic pleading and political pontificating (otherwise known as a hearing).

Nonetheless, neither the state Legislature nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo has any intention of letting rent laws expire on June 15. Their mission, therefore, must be to make the best of the current system while easing the city toward a more sensible one. Fortunately, they do not need to do much to accomplish the latter goal.

Eight years ago, when the rent laws last came up for renewal, measures were kept in place to free vacant apartments from the shackles of government control while protecting tenants who depend on regulated rent. Tenants could stay in their apartments and pay the regulated rent (or an even lower “preferential rent” set by the landlord) as long as they wanted, unless the regulated rent reached $2,000 and their income was $175,000 or greater for two consecutive years. If a $2,000-plus apartment became vacant, regulation would cease.

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