California Nixes Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning

California Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a bill that would have permitted local authorities to impose mandatory inclusionary zoning statewide. The proposal was opposed by California realtors as a violation of the Costa-Hawkins law which since 1995 has prevented localities from imposing rent regulations on new construction.

The situation in California may foreshadow future action in New York as Mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio has supported the concept of mandatory inclusionary zoning. This concept may be in violation of New York’s Urstadt Law which, similar to Costa-Hawkins, does not allow local rent regulations which are more stringent than State rent laws. No problem for Bill, since he also favors repealing the Urstadt Law, thereby  allowing the NYC City Council to govern the rent laws.

Santa Monica Rent Board Raises Registration Fee, Says Landlords Have to Pay

 

 

 

 

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

June 17, 2013 — For the first time since Santa Monica’s Rent Control law passed more than 30 years ago, landlords won’t be able to recoup all of the registration fees they pay to the Rent Board each year.

Facing a half-a-million dollar deficit next year, the Rent Board voted unanimously Thursday to raise the annual registration fee from $156 per unit to $174.96, or $14.58 per month per unit.

The Board also unanimously agreed that landlords can pass through $13 a month of that fee to tenants, leaving the landlords to shoulder about $1.58 a month for every unit they own.

“What we’re trying to do here is to eliminate a deficit,” said Rent Board member Todd Flora. “This amount seems very well thought out.”

Staff claims increasing the fee for the city’s 26,350 billable controlled units would yield $4,610,196, covering the amount it needs to break even.

“With anticipated revenue from interest income and miscellaneous administrative charges, the budget would achieve near-perfect balance,” officials said.

Originally, staff proposed revising the statute to allow landlords to recoup only 50 percent of the registration fees but changed the proposed formula after threats of litigation.

“At its last regular meeting, a public speaker told the Board that landlords would sue if they were required to bear any portion of the registration fee,” staff said.

Some landlord representatives claimed that changing the amount landlords could recoup would violate the City Charter.

Still, staff maintains that the Board has a right to regulate how much of the registration fee landlords can pass on to their tenants.

“That the Board has allowed landlords to recoup 100 percent of paid registration fees does not change the fact that registration fees are landlords’ responsibility to pay,” staff said.

“Nor would reducing the amount or proportion of fees that landlords may recoup from their tenants by means of a pass through constitute the ‘imposition’ of a new fee on landlords.”

Staff argued that landlords have benefited from having a Rent Board that assures fair arbitration in landlord-tenant disputes.

Landlords have argued that the board – which mostly handles rent decrease petitions – disproportionately benefits tenants.

Registration fees account for roughly 85 percent of the Rent Control Agency’s $4.5 million budget and the 12 percent increase in the fees comes more than a month after the Board voted unanimously to limit the amount landlords could raise fees on rent controlled units to one percent or no more than $17.

Source: Santa Monica Lookout

University of Regina economist says rent control policies bad idea

 

By Terrence McEachern, Leader-Post

REGINA — A Regina economist is cautioning that recent calls for rent control legislation is not the best way to deal with the availability of affordable rental units.

“The short answer — not really,” said Jason Childs, an associate professor of economics at the University of Regina. He explained rent control legislation can be divided into two types — those that set a cap on rent and those that control rent increases gradually.

Jason Childs, associate professor of economics at the University of Regina, argues rent control policies could have negative impacts on the people they are designed to help. Instead, he says social housing and subsidies to low-income renters should be considered. Photograph by: Don Healy , Regina Leader-Post

Regardless of the type, Childs argues rent control legislation doesn’t help the people it is supposed to help. He said in places with rent controls, there is a tendency for tenants to hold onto low-rental units even if their economic situation improves. Childs cites actress Faye Dunaway as an example of someone who lived in a rent-controlled apartment in New York City for several years before finally vacating.

“If you’re already in an apartment, you’re golden. If you’re trying to find one, you’re out of luck,” he said. “The distribution of the effects of this policy is really, strongly negative for younger folks and new arrivals. So, we’re going to be protecting established residents at (their) expense.”

Childs also argues rent control legislation would negatively affect the quantity of rental units. Developers would be faced with a disincentive through the introduction of uncertainty in terms of demand and the ability to make a profit in the rental market.

This is combined with a quality problem with rent-controlled units.

“Basically, if you control the rate at which I can increase the rent … (and) if I’m not making money at this, I’m going to let maintenance slide,” he explained.

The issue of rent control arose earlier this week when a group of tenants living at 2221 Robinson St. spoke out about approaching monthly rent increases as high as 77 per cent on Sept. 1. Many have said they would rather move than pay the monthly rent increases — in some cases — from $675 to $1,195 for a two-bedroom apartment.

On Tuesday, the matter reached the floor of the Saskatchewan legislature during question period when NDP MLA David Forbes argued for rent control legislation in light of the Robinson Street situation.

However, Childs argues more social housing and subsidies to low-income renters are better ways to approach the issue.

In terms of the Robinson Street rent hikes, Childs admits 77 per cent is a huge monthly rent increase and that he has sympathy for the tenants, but also questions the fairness of tenants receiving a reduced rent when young people and new arrivals to the city are paying market value.

“This is less than a zero-sum policy,” he said. “Society as a whole loses.”
Source: Leader Post

Rethinking Rent Regulation

By Robert Knakal

One of the most prominent needs in the New York City real estate market is affordable housing.With the expected growth in our population over the next couple of decades, it is imperative that work-force housing exist. This is housing for police officers, firemen, teachers and the scores of other workers who make this city run. An insufficient supply of affordable housing for these folks is a critical issue for the economic well-being of the city that future local administrations will have to address.

Most of our elected officials continually, and inaccurately, refer to our rent-regulation system an “affordable housing” program. Rent control and rent stabilization do not create affordable units as options for our current work force.

In fact, rent regulation actually does just the opposite, as it reduces the number of options for new residents coming into the marketplace. There are 3.3 million dwelling units in NYC, but someone new coming into town looking for an apartment really has only 2.3 million “choices,” as 1 million units remain stuck in the rent-regulation system.

This constraint on supply means that market-level rents are artificially high due to the artificially low rents paid by folks who have been in apartments for a long time. Study after study shows that in the absence of price controls, market prices are lowered. Getting rid of rent regulation would mean more choice and lower rents for the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers. It would also mean lower property taxes for those in free-market properties, as currently regulated properties would begin to contribute an appropriate level of taxes.

No I haven’t lost my mind—I don’t expect rent regulation to go away anytime soon. But the program’s existence undeniably exacerbates the housing problems we have here. Until the nonregulated residents of New York realize that they are paying higher rents and higher property taxes than they should be because they are the ones subsidizing rent-regulated tenants, and they become vocal about it to local politicians, rent regulation isn’t going anywhere.

Another negative aspect of rent regulation is that the benefits of subsidized rent levels create motivation for occupants of these units not to move, regardless of whether the unit’s size is appropriate for them or not. Therefore, we have little old ladies living in three-bedroom apartments by themselves and families of four or five living in one- or two-bedroom apartments. This misallocation of our housing stock is not good for the city.

Furthermore, the fact that these rent subsidies are given out based on inertia rather than need, as there is no means testing on rent regulation, means that this program does not address the affordability issue.

So how does the city create the affordable work-force housing that is so desperately needed?

One idea would be to bring back the 421a program in its original form to create needed affordable units. Changes to this program were precipitated by elected officials who don’t fully understand the program.

Another idea is to create a citywide 421g-type program to incentivize the private sector to convert obsolete office buildings into affordable housing. There is an oversupply of office space presently, and removing some excess space would simultaneously strengthen the office-space market and create affordable housing.

Lastly, the city could stimulate the creation of additional affordable housing units by providing FAR bonuses. Giving FAR bonuses in ratios of 3 to 1, or 4 to 1, to developers doesn’t cost the city a dime. It just takes the political will to address those who will inevitably complain that larger buildings are blocking out the sun or are creating negative impacts on the quality of life.

If these no-cost incentives are created properly, it is very likely that affordable units will be created by the private sector, eliminating the need for the government to try to figure out how to provide these units and creating a more livable city.
[email protected]

Robert Knakal is the chairman and founding partner of Massey Knakal Realty Services; in his career he has brokered the sale of more than 1,300 properties with a market value in excess of $9 billion.

Source: Commercial Observer

 

 

Beware the Comeback of Rent Control

The U.S. rental housing market has come under increasing strain recently. As homeowners with unsustainable mortgages have to leave their homes and fewer home buyers are able to qualify for new mortgages, more people are looking for places to rent. As a result, rental vacancy rates have fallen from 11.1 percent in the third quarter of 2009 to 8.6 percent in the third quarter of 2012. With affordable housing already in short supply, there is growing concern that stronger protections are needed to prevent rents from rising too fast, pricing more low-income and vulnerable renters out of the market.

One idea to protect renters that may be getting renewed interest is rent control. Rent control policies have been tried in a number of cities, first during World War II and later again in the 1960s and 1970s. Relatively few places have rent control today though and most states have laws prohibiting the practice. Given the challenges in today’s rental market, does rent control deserve a second look?

 

A scan of the research literature revealed very little evidence that rent control is a good policy. Arguments against rent control go back as far as the 1970s and the RAND housing allowance experiments in New York City. More recently, a MIT study of the 1995 repeal of rent control in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that investment in housing increased after rent control ended, leading to “major gains in housing quality.” A National Bureau of Economic Research paper also examined the Cambridge experience and concluded that “elimination of rent control added about $1.8 billion to the value of Cambridge’s housing stock between 1994 and 2004, equal to nearly a quarter of total Cambridge residential price appreciation in this period.” These findings have been used to argue for removal of rent control in New York and other places.

In a comprehensive overview of the research literature, Blair Jenkins examined studies of different aspects of first-generation rent control (strict price ceilings) and second-generation (limits on increases, also referred to as rent stabilization). The upshot is that, at best, rent control does little harm but probably not much good and, at worst, it has negative impacts on landlords and tenants. There is near universal agreement that strict price ceilings, such as the kind imposed in New York City in the 1940s, are always bad because they severely inhibit housing production and investment. Even those most sympathetic to rent control seem to agree with this.

 

 

 

 

That leaves the softer, rent stabilization policies, like those currently in place in New York City and Washington, D.C. These regulations place limits on how much landlords can raise rents on sitting tenants, but generally allow much larger rent increases for new tenants. They also often allow exceptions for landlords to pass along certain costs to tenants, such as capital improvement costs or utility charges.

On rent stabilization, the strongest finding in Jenkins’s overview appears to be that tenants in noncontrolled units pay higher rents than they would without the presence of rent control; one reason being that landlords need to make up the difference for lower rents in controlled units. Interestingly, one study found that New York City tenants in controlled units also had higher rents initially, because they were willing to pay more to get into a rent-controlled unit with the understanding that they would have smaller rent increases in the future. The net effect, however, is that tenants don’t save much in the long run—they simply trade higher rents now for lower rents later.

The conclusion seems to be that rent stabilization doesn’t do a good job of protecting its intended beneficiaries—poor or vulnerable renters—because the targeting of the benefits is very haphazard. A study of rent stabilization in Cambridge, for example, concluded that “the poor, the elderly, and families—the three major groups targeted for benefits of rent control—were no more likely to be found in controlled than uncontrolled units.” And, as noted earlier, those in uncontrolled units tend to pay higher rents, so they are actually hurt by rent control.

Given the current research, there seems to be little one can say in favor of rent control. What, then, should be done to help renters obtain affordable, decent housing? A better approach may be adopting policies that encourage the production of more diverse types of housing (different densities, tenure types, unit sizes, etc.), implementing strong regulations and practices to ensure housing quality and to protect tenants from abuses; and providing targeted, direct subsidies to people who need help paying their rents.

 

Source: The Atlantic Cities

A Landlord’s Uphill Fight to Ease Rent Regulations: The “Madison Group”

By Craig Mordoh, Esq.

On July 11, 2012, representatives from various residential rental property owner groups from across the nation met at the distinguished Cato Institute to begin the process of formulating a strategy to place a constitutional challenge to rent control land – rent stabilization laws before the United States Supreme Court.

This effort is the brainchild of James Harmon, a former prosecuting attorney who gained some recent notoriety in the landlord community by mounting a one-man challenge to the New York Rent Stabilization Law that almost made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

After an unsuccessful two-year battle to evict a tenant, who could well afford to live anywhere, Jim decided to challenge the constitutionality of the rent law itself. Making a sympathetic plaintiff, Jim received much favorable press coverage and the assistance of many prominent amici curiae; however, after a number of good signs that the Supreme Court might decide to hear his case, the court ultimately chose not to.

Beaten, but not defeated, Jim decided to try and find a way to challenge not just the New York Law, but rent control laws everywhere.  Currently rent control in some form exists in relatively few places, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington D.C. and California. Many other states have laws or court’s rulings prohibiting rent control. In one famous instance, the voters of the State of Massachusetts voted to eliminate rent control throughout the state. Amazingly, the elimination of rent control in that state created no upheaval in the tenant community and improved the housing stock in those cities that now had a newly-created free market.

The first step in Jim’s plan was to find the commonalities in each of the laws. For instance, not every law has a state-wide enabling legislation, but every law limits the right to evict tenants.

Other potential areas of inquiry include:

What does a new-construction exemption say about the need for rent control and its effect on the housing market?

Does the emergency situation which formed the rationale for every rent control law still exist after all these years?

If yes, does it still create a lawful basis for rent control and what does its existence say about the efficiency of rent control?

Must an owner have the right to   recapture their property?

Once the commonalities are identified, chose the one susceptible to the strongest legal challenge and the file that single-issue Federal lawsuit in each of the rent control localities. This would result in rent control challenge in five different federal circuits. It is anticipated that the appellate level would require a review by the Supreme Court.

I attended this meeting on behalf of the California Apartment Law Information Foundation as well as the Apartment Associations of Greater Los Angeles. In addition, there were representatives of the National Apartment Association, the Institute for Justice, New York University School of Law and representatives from local owner’s groups from all of the affected jurisdictions.

The attendees were dunned the “Madison Group” in honor of James Madison, our fourth President, who stated “commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive, and impolitic.” This may be the most concise, yet accurate, description of rent control ever.

Following the meeting, the enthusiasm of the participants was high and a follow-up national teleconference was scheduled for September. CALIF and AAGLA will continue to participate in this effort and provide periodic reports to this magazine.

Mordoh is Senior Attorney of the California Apartment Law Information Foundation (CALIF). Since its inception, CALIF has pursued its dual goals of providing an informational base for landlords and tenants on the workings of landlord-tenant law in California and challenging state and local municipalities when they take actions that infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed property and civil rights of California residents. CALIF is qualified to receive tax-deductible contributions under IRC Section 501(c)(3).

 

Source:  Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles

Three years after their building was demolished, rent-regulated tenants fight for compensation

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June 06, 2012 03:00PM

Rent-regulated tenants of a Lower East Side building demolished three years ago due to violations that were neglected by the landlord are petitioning to receive their promised $1 million compensation, DNAinfo reported.

In 2009, the Department of Buildings ordered the demolition of 128 Hester Street due to existing untended building code violations and further damage from the construction of a Wyndham Hotel behind the property. The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal ordered landlord William Su to pay $1 million to the 29 residents in 2010 as compensation for the demolition. At the time, it was deemed a victory for rent-regulated New Yorkers.

But the tenants have yet to receive the money and claim that Su has avoided meeting with them to discuss the issue. Su’s lawyer told DNAinfo that his client was no longer required to pay the sum because it was deemed unfair as the building was already in disrepair when Su’s company purchased it.

Thanks to the petition, spearheaded by Asian Americans For Equality, the landlord and the former residents are expected to meet again Thursday to negotiate a fair settlement.

Source: The Real Deal