Even with a Supreme Court battle looming in the background, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg didn’t hesitate to sign a City Council bill extending New York’s Rent Stabilization Law through April 2015.
“In order to extend the Rent Stabilization Law, the City must determine that a housing emergency exists to merit the need for rent stabilization,” Bloomberg said in a release about the bill’s passage, citing the city’s vacancy rate of 3.12 percent to declare the requisite emergency.
The continuation of rent regulations, which come up for renewal every three years, has been championed by a slew of City Council members, including Speaker Christine Quinn, who made affordable housing a focus of her 2012 State of the City address.
The law, on the books since 1969, mandates that owners of properties with six or more rental units abide by annual rent increases—usually around 3 percent—set by the Rent Guidelines Board.
And last year, the state legislature bolstered the protections, renewing rent regulation laws and raising the ceiling on rent stabilization-eligible apartments in the process.
But given that the policy is more than 40 years old, and some of the tenants who were its early beneficiaries have significantly bolstered their bank accounts since then, it’s garnered its share of critics.
Most notably, James Harmon, a former federal prosecutor, and his wife Jeanne, who inherited an Upper West Side brownstone and would like to oust tenants who pay rents that are approximately 59 percent of market value (including one who has a house in the Hamptons). The Harmons have taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that regulation violates their property rights.
Others argue that while the laws are responsible for some outrages, like actress Faye Dunaway’s rent-controlled $1,048.-2 a-month apartment on the Upper East Side, it primarily benefits people who couldn’t afford to live in New York otherwise.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear the Harmons’ case next month. Meanwhile, the city’s many unlanded residents can breath a sigh of relief.