New York City apartment rent controls stall legislature

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 16, 2011 5:53 PM
New York City apartment rent controls stall legislature

By Dan Wiessner

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - Debate over extending or revising rent control laws that apply to more than one million New York City apartments stalled action on wider issues in the state legislature on Thursday.

The rent controls, which cap the cost to tenants living in certain units, were allowed to lapse on Wednesday for the first time since 1997 but there was no danger of rents being raised because tenants are protected by lease agreements.

The lapse is expected to be temporary while legislators work out a new deal. All sides of the political debate support some type of rent controls for New York City.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers want to expand the boundaries of rent regulation, raising the ceiling so apartments that rent for as much as $3000 a month could fall under the program. They also want to put limits on how much landlords can raise the rent on apartments that go vacant.

The senate's Republican majority favors a simple extension of the existing rent laws.

The wrangling over rent control has stalled action on bigger issues of a proposal to legalize same sex marriage in the state and another dealing with property taxes.

Cuomo has threatened to keep lawmakers at the Capitol as long as necessary to hammer out an agreement on the rent laws.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Thursday that people should not worry about the controls lapsing.

"We need to make sure people can afford to live in our city and investors have incentives to build new houses," he said.

Cuomo said if no agreement is reached by Monday, the last day of the legislative session, he will call lawmakers into a special session to try to force a deal.

"Our state's rent protection laws are essential," Cuomo said in a statement on Thursday. "I will not allow the legislature to go out of session and go home until tenants are protected."

New York's rent control regulations, which date back to the years following World War II, were designed to protect tenants in privately-owned buildings from untenable rent hikes and to help maintain middle-class housing in the city.

In New York City, on the open market the median price for a one-bedroom apartment is nearly $2,500, according to industry statistics, but prices range widely in different neighborhoods with different styles of apartments.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)