Editorial Support: Rent regulation an unfair relic



Editorial: Rent regulation an unfair relic

     Originally published: April 2, 2012 7:12 PM
     Updated: April 2, 2012 7:14 PM
Photo credit: Getty | Stuyvesant Town apartment complex in Manhattan has rent-stabilized dwellings
As New York City extended its participation in rent regulation recently for another three years, theU.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to take on a case challenging its constitutionality. The court shouldn’t wait any longer to determine whether an outdated law that forces a private landlord to continue renting to a particular tenant, and sets the amount of rent charged, violates the U.S. Constitution.
Rent regulation distorts what should be a free market. It results in less rental housing, as landlords shun the business. And it can lead to the deterioration of available housing. Landlords whose rental income is restricted by government fiat have less money and less incentive to invest to maintain or improve their buildings. Continue reading

Editorial Support: Some People Get It, Some People Don’t.


Rent Control: A 40-year ’emergency’

Competition for the title of America’s Dumbest Law is fierce and intense. But the winner is probably New York’s rent-control provisions, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg just extended for three years when he declared a continuing state of emergency in the housing market.
The rental vacancy rate in New York is a hair over 3 percent. That is “well below the 5 percent rate at which the law requires that rent regulation be discontinued,” Bloomberg said.
So the city will continue to impose artificial caps on prices. Here’s a quick Econ 101 question: What do low prices do? Answer: They encourage demand and discourage supply. (If the government imposed a price cap of $5 on iPhones, how many people would want to buy one? And how many would Apple be willing to make?) If rents were allowed to rise to market rates, more apartments would become available and fewer people would try to rent them. Rent control is creating the very condition that supposedly justifies its existence.
New York’s apartment vacancy rate has been below 5 percent for more than 40 years. The city’s leaders probably are scratching their heads, wondering how an emergency could last for four decades. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments over the constitutionality of the Big Apple’s rent restrictions. Perhaps the justices can explain it to them.

NYC building owner deserves his day in the Supreme Court


NYC building owner deserves his day in the Supreme Court

Justices must decide if rent laws are constitutional

Monday, March 26, 2012, 4:10 AM


A Manhattan brownstone owner suing over rent laws deserves his day in Supreme Court.
Against long odds, a Manhattan brownstone owner has argued a challenge to New York’s rent laws all the way to the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Upper West Side attorney James Harmon, a former federal prosecutor, contends that government controls on three of the six apartments in his building unconstitutionally strip him of his property rights.
Two lower courts shot down his arguments. But he pressed his appeal to Washington and — much to the surprise of state and city housing officials — the high court demanded briefs on whether it should hear the case.
Those papers are now in, and they make clear that Harmon is raising fundamental issues that must be fully aired and definitely resolved.
The court should take the case and answer his simple but compelling question:
How would average Americans feel if they were in his shoes? Continue reading

George Will Weighs In in Support of Harmons’ Rent Control Challenge


Supreme Court should take on New York City’s rent control laws

By George F. Will, Published: February 15

James and Jeanne Harmon reside in and supposedly own a five-story brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a building that has been in their family since 1949. But they have, so to speak, houseguests who have overstayed their welcome by, in cumulative years, more than a century. They are the tenants — the same tenants — who have been living in the three of the Harmons’ six apartments that are rent controlled.

The Harmons want the Supreme Court to rule that their home has been effectively, and unconstitutionally, taken from them by notably foolish laws that advance no legitimate state interest. The court should.

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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.”

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

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Editorial): High Court Has Apparent Interest in Challenge to Rent Stabilization


High Court Has Apparent Interest in Challenge to Rent Stabilization

by Samuel Newhouse, published online 12-21-2011
One Supreme Court Justice Tells City to File AnswerBy Samuel Newhouse
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN — If one homeowner has his way, the nation’s highest court may soon be examining New York City’s rent-stabilization laws for the first time since the 1920s, with potentially powerful ramifications for residents in the County of Kings.

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that the city file response papers by Jan. 4 to the petition of James Harmon, 68, and his wife, the owners of a five-story brownstone on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

Having lost his case at both the trial court and the Circuit Court, the city waived its right to file opposition papers to Harmon’s petition to the nation’s high court, presumably confident that the Supreme Court would deny cert and dismiss Harmon’s petition. However, one of the nine justices (it is unknown which) has told the city to file response papers, indicating an apparent interest in the case.

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