Why is Rent Regulation aka Rent Stabilization So Important?

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Council on Housing

Why is rent-regulation so important?

Most New Yorkers would never be able to afford the market rents in their own neighborhoods. This is particularly true for lower-income tenants who live in areas that are experiencing gentrification. Many neighborhoods that used to be affordable to people of modest means have seen rents skyrocket, and the only reason why most long-time tenants are able to stay in the communities where they set roots is because of our rent-regulation laws. These laws protect the affordability of rental housing to over 2.5 million New Yorkers - more than all other affordable housing programs combined. Unlike every other affordable housing program, rent-regulation costs almost nothing, as it requires no government subsidies. The laws keep rent increases under control in privately-owned buildings and prevent landlords from imposing outrageous rent-hikes or evicting tenants without cause.

The majority of New York City's housing stock is rental - in some neighborhoods, nearly all of it. Moreover, the high value of land in the metropolitan region puts home-ownership out of reach for the majority of New York City residents. Rent-regulation provides stability to individuals, families, and entire communities, and is the primary reason why New York City remains a diverse, vibrant place that low- and moderate-income people can afford to continue living in.

The key protections of rent stabilization and rent control laws are:
  • The right to continue living in your apartment while paying modest rent increases. By contrast, in unregulated apartments landlords can raise rates as high as they want whenever they want, no matter how long a tenant has lived in the apartment.
  • Protection against eviction without cause. Landlords cannot evict or end the tenancy of a rent-regulated tenant unless they can demonstrate good cause, such as that the tenant failed to pay the rent, was a nuisance, or violated the lease. By contrast, a landlord can move to evict an unregulated tenant at the end of his/her lease without any reason, no matter how long the tenant has lived there.
  • The right to good services and repairs, with recourse if they are not provided. Rent regulated tenants are able to assert their legal rights to repairs and adequate services without fear of retaliation, since tenants have the right by law to renew their leases. By contrast, in many cases when unregulated tenants complain about poor services or conditions, their landlords retaliate by refusing to renew their leases. Unregulated tenants are forced to choose between living in dilapidated housing and facing displacement.

What reforms do we want to our rent regulation laws?

Met Council on Housing is a founding member of the Real Rent Reform Campaign, a coalition of housing and community groups, faith-based organizations, and unions, from across New York, that have unified to push for a package reforms to our rent regulation system. The majority of the reforms would restore the rent regulation system to the way it was for many decades, before the system was dismantled by the legislature in the 1990s. For details, read the Real Rent Reform Campaign's 2012 Legislative Platform.

Why are our rent-regulation laws under attack?

Landlords stand to make hundreds of billions of dollars in additional profits by ending rent-regulations. The elimination of rent regulation would shift billions of dollars from the general economy to a small class of already wealthy landlords. In many cities throughout the United States, rent regulations have been eliminated entirely. In New York, a strong, unified tenant movement has thwarted previous efforts by landlords to eliminate the system, but landlords spend millions every year to influence politicians to weaken or eliminate the laws, and have succeeded in creating loopholes to deregulate vacant apartments. 300,000 once-affordable, once-rent-regulated apartments have already been converted to luxury market-rate apartments. Every year tens of thousands of apartments are deregulated, and we will eventually lose the entire system if we don't close the deregulation loopholes.