RSA President Joe Strasburg responds to the City Comptroller’s recent report on rising rents in Crain’s New York

Letters to the Editor: The truth about rents

City comptroller’s report misleads on housing-cost burden


The city comptroller’s recent report on rising rents (“High rents hitting middle-class New Yorkers,” slices and dices the statistics to erroneously make it appear that rent burdens in New York City are higher than elsewhere and, unbelievably, to suggest that middle-class renters have greater housing affordability problems than poor renters.

First, New York’s rents have been rising along with rents in the rest of the country to the point where a majority of renters in New York and nationally pay more than 30% of income for rent, making the 30% limit an outdated standard. (Some of your readers may recall that the federal government used to define paying more than 25% as unaffordable.)

Second, a large part of the rise in rents is the direct result of the increase in government levies for real estate taxes and water and sewer charges, yet the comptroller does not suggest restraining those increases as a way to rein in rising rents—perhaps because Comptroller John Liu, as a city councilman, voted for two midyear real estate tax increases. Nor does he suggest that zoning and other restrictive regulations raise the cost of housing.

Third, when gauging affordability, the comptroller’s report fails to consider that many renters willingly pay more than 50% of their income in rent for the privilege of living in core Manhattan or highly desirable outer-borough neighborhoods (or to consider the 1 million college students who are paying rent with little or no income).

There is a clear need to expand the supply and contain the costs of housing in New York City, but exaggerating the scope of the problem while ignoring root causes does not foster the rational discussion we need.


— Joseph StrasburgPresident 
    Rent Stabilization Association


Source: Crain’s New York