Affordable Housing Advocates Support Harmon Rent Control Challenge, Part 2



January 26, 2012 
Continued from yesterday’s Part1.]

In yesterday’s Part 1, we met the Don Quixote of rentcontrol, lifelong New Yorker James Harmon, whose case challenging the statutelost on appeal to the U. S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but may be heardby the Supreme Court granting certiorari.  To fill in the legalarguments, I’ve used RichardEpstein’s Wall Street Journal op-ed (Palatino brown) and Cato’sdescription of its amicus brief (Georgia gray), because the NewYork Times’s (December 19, 2011) story, though sympathetic,glides over them, preferring to focus on the long-suffering plaintiff:

A couple’s home is its castle … unless it’s rent stabilized, that is

Affordable Housing Advocates Support Harmon Rent Control Challenge, Part 1


January 25, 2012 

Even dropped from the Empire State Building, it can’t kill anyone
Even dropped from the Empire State Building, it can’t kill anyone

Though ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, I had given up believing that rent control would ever be ruled an economic taking without due process or just compensation (even though it is both), because the procedural and administrative defenses mounted by a determined confiscatory local government are so tortuous to besiege and scale that for nearly forty years no one has. 

Destined to have his name in the law books? James Harmon

Destined to have his name in the law books? James Harmon

Continue reading

India Weighs in on New York City’s Challenge to Rent Control Law


Opinion letter on theNew Delhirent control law, from Shobha Aggarwal of the

Public Interest Litigation Watch Group in New Dehli, India. Aggarwal believes that “One would endeavour to ensure that property owners of the world should unite because they have nothing to lose except their pittance-paying tenants.

Cato Institute Explains its Support of Harmon Lawsuit

Will The Supreme Court End New York’s Rent Control Laws?

by Reason TV
Posted Jan 20th 2012 

“If you wanted to destroy a city’s housing – short of bombing – the best way to do it is rent control,” says Cato legal associate Trevor Burrus.

While most cities in America long ago got rid of rent control, New York remains a bastion of government-mandated limits on what landlords can charge renters. About 50 percent of New York’s rental market is affected by rent control or rent stabilization, policies that keep rents artificially low and produce housing shortages, higher overall housing costs, and all sorts of corruption.

The court case Harmon v. Kimmel may finally bring an end to rent control laws that have been on the books in one form or another since the 1940s. James D. Harmon owns a building in Manhattan where the tenants are paying rents that are about 60 percent below the going market rate. After losing various legal battles at lower levels, Harmon has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear his argument that rent stabilization is a form of takings that should be prohibited under the Constitution. The Court has not yet announced whether it will hear the case but has asked the state and city of New York to respond to Harmon’s argument.

Cato’s Burrus wrote a friend of the court brief on the case and explains why rent control and rent stabilization are bad at promoting affordable housing and abridgments of economic freedom.
Shot and edited by Joshua Swain.
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Source: Big Government /

Prof. Richard Epstein Responds to Critics


Rent-Control Laws Hamper New York’s Housing Market

LETTERS | January 13, 2012
Richard Rafal’s letter (Jan. 10) replying to my “Rent Control Hits the Supreme Court”(op-ed, Jan. 4) shows a slender grasp of economic principle when he defends New York’s stringent rent-control laws by observing, “New York, the most rent-regulated city in the country, has always had some of the most expensive real estate in the world.” So it does, for two reasons.
The rent-control laws perpetuate the low level of utilization of key properties. Also, New York’s punitive Uniform Land Use Review Procedure places enormous local hurdles in the path of new development, to further constrict the supply. The high real-estate values to which Mr. Rafal refers are confined to those lucky enough to survive the process. Huge swaths of land remain undeveloped, perpetuating these monopoly rents.
Richard A. Epstein
Palo Alto, Calif.
Richard Rafal dismisses the movement to abolish rent control by stating that such abolition would only benefit the owners. Of course it would, in the same way that restoration of stolen goods benefits the victim of a robbery. The beneficiary of rent control is legally taking advantage of an immoral law.

Las Vegas Gets It!



Rent control: High court may take up important case

Posted: Jan. 9, 2012 | 1:59 a.m.
In parts of America, an apartment is a place to live for a few years while saving for a house.
That’s less likely to be true in a dense urban metropolis, where land values are so high that even well-to-do families can occupy apartments for a generation or more.
That means tenants — who vote — generally outnumber landlords. When costs go up, landlords seek to raise rents. The tenants squawk. The political result? Rent control.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “exposed the deeply antidemocratic nature of rent control in Pennell v. City of San Jose,” points out New York University law professor Richard Epstein in the Jan. 4 Wall Street Journal. “If the government thinks some high social end is served by allowing tenants to sit on someone else’s property in perpetuity, then it should use public funds … to buy or lease the premises for market value which it can then lease out to particular tenants.”

CHIP Files Amicus Brief in Support of the Harmons


No. 11- 496
Supreme Court of the United States
JONATHAN L. KIMMEL, in his offi cial capacity

Prof. Epstein Weighs in to Support the Harmons


Rent Control Hits the Supreme Court

Private apartment owners should not have to fund a

 public welfare program.


People who don’t live in New York City probably haven’t confronted the market-distorting injustices of rent control and similar rent-stabilization laws. But they may recall their outrage in 2008 upon reading that New York Rep. Charles Rangel worked the system by paying a total of $3,894 a month for four rent-stabilized luxury apartments in Harlem, about half the market price.
Remarkably, a serious constitutional challenge to rent-control and stabilization laws may finally be in the works. The challenge arises from James and Jeanne Harmon, who own a town house on West 76th Street in New York City. The upper floors are occupied by tenants who are entrenched under New York’s rent-stabilization law, paying rents at only a fraction of the value of their units. Mr. Harmon, a most persistent man whom I have from time to time advised, is attempting to strike down this law.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals blew off his suit in March, but Mr. Harmon has filed petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court, and, miracles of miracles, the high court has asked New York City and the tenants to respond. His story has been sympathetically featured in the New York Times, the Daily News and the New York Post. Perhaps there is still some life in the challenge to rent controls. There darn well ought to be.
In broad and emphatic language, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that “no person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Rent control collides with the last prohibition, the “takings clause.”
All versions of rent-control laws share a single dominant characteristic: They allow a tenant to remain in possession of property after the expiration of a lease at below-market rents. New York even gives the tenant a statutory right to pass on the right to occupy the premises at a controlled rent to family members who have lived with them for two or more years. The tenants in Mr. Harmon’s complaint pay rent equal to about 60% of market value. Continue reading