It’s Not Over Till It’s Over: Rent Control Supporters Vow to Continue the Fight

 

by Al Sullivan

Although voters rejected an effort to maintain rent control by 121 votes, supporters of rent control said they are reviewing their options and will seek to put the question back on the ballot if legal options do not prevail.

With nearly all of the votes counted from Nov. 6, the effort to retain rent control was narrowly defeated with 51 percent to 49 percent of the vote.

County elections officials certified the vote on Nov. 17, and this allows the city to gradually phase out rent control in Bayonne.

The council approved changes to rent control in November 2011 that would allow landlords to opt out of rent control once current tenants move out.

Rent control supporters tried twice earlier this year to have the matter put up as a referendum, and then when those attempts failed, they used another approached the imitative which successfully allowed the matter to be put on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Ed Gilligan, spokesperson for the Bayonne Tenants’ Association, said he was disappointed by the result, but that the group has not given up.

“We’re reviewing our legal options,” he said. “If we have to, we will go out and get more signatures and put it on the ballot again. In Hoboken, they did it twice. The first time they were swamped, but they got organized and won. We weren’t organized and we only got 49 percent of the vote.”

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“I think maintaining rent control is where the sympathies of Bayonne people lie.” – Ed Gilligan
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Course of action

The Bayonne Tenants’ Association was seeking to preserve rent control in the city after the council voted to do away with it in November 2011, as part of an effort to spur redevelopment in the city.

“I think we were fair in what we did,” said Councilman Ray Greaves. “I didn’t like the first ordinance that we saw [in July 2011], which didn’t protect the people living there. But the changes we voted for do, I think are fair to both landlords and tenants and will help landlords reinvest in their properties, knowing that they will get a fair return on their property.”

The vote results from Nov. 6, which were delayed because of Hurricane Sandy, lets the city council changes remain. These would allow properties to drop rent control once the residents living in them currently leave.

“I don’t think this lost because of the hurricane,” Gilligan said. “Outside groups and the city spent a lot of money to defeat our ordinance that would have kept the old rent control in place. We spent very little and we still got 49 percent of the vote. I think maintaining rent control is where the sympathies of Bayonne people lie. They do not sympathize with out-of-town political operatives who came in here to get rid of it.”

Unlike traditional referendums which would have not allowed the Bayonne Tenants’ Organization to seek another election on the measure for three years, the method they used has no limitation.

“We can put it back on the ballot as soon as we get enough signatures again,” he said.

Gillian said he and his group will likely start a public education campaign ahead of the next round in this battle to preserve rent control.

“I think the next time we can win this,” he said.

Source: Hudson Reporter

High Court Denies Certiorari in Rent Stabilization Case

By Brendan Pierson Contact All Articles

New York Law Journal

April 24, 2012

 

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on April 23 that it will not hear a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New York City’s rent-stabilization law.

The case, Harmon v. Kimmel, 11-496, was filed against the city in 2008 by James Harmon and his wife, Jeanne. The couple owns an Upper West Side brownstone with six apartments, of which three are rent stabilized. The Harmons argued that the 1969 rent-stabilization law, intended to respond to a housing shortage, was an unconstitutional taking of their property.

Southern District Judge Barbara Jones (See Profile) dismissed the case in February 2010, and Judges Amalya Kearse (See Profile), Robert Sack (See Profile) and Robert Katzmann (See Profile) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal in March 2011. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal marks the end of the case.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court will allow the existing court rulings dismissing this case to stand,” Alan Krams, senior counsel in the Appeals Division of the Corporation Counsel’s office, said in a press release. “Rent regulation in New York City has a long history, and the Court properly left it to elected state and city officials to decide its future.”

James Harmon said in an e-mail that the Harmon family was disappointed in the court’s denial of cert. “We still believe that the Constitution does not allow the government to force us to take strangers into our home at our expense for life. Even our grandchildren have been barred from living with us. That is not our America.”

“We are deeply disappointed that the United States Supreme Court did not accept what we believe to be relevant and legitimate property rights concerns of all New York City rent-regulated property owners, who have endured 70 years of rent regulation in one form or another,” Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which filed an amicus brief on the Harmons’ side, said in a press release.

 

Source: New York Law Journal.

NYC Rent Control: US Supreme Court Won’t Hear Harmon V. Kimmel

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal that seeks to end rent stabilization laws in New York City.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from James and Jeanne Harmon, who have lost earlier court attempts to get rent stabilization laws thrown out.

The Harmons' building in the Upper West Side.

The Harmons inherited a building with three rent-controlled apartments near Central Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The Harmons say rent stabilization laws forces them to rent the apartments at rents 59 percent below market rate. They argue that by giving the tenants lifetime tenure with succession rights, the government has illegally taken their property.

A federal judge and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City threw out their lawsuit. The high court refused to review that decision.

 

Source: The Huffington Post.

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to New York Rent Control Regulations

 

Posted Apr 23, 2012 9:12 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to New York’s rent control regulations.

A plaintiff in the Fifth Amendment case was James Harmon, a former prosecutor who runs a corporate investigations firm. The high court denied cert today, SCOTUSblog reports.

Harmon inherited his New York brownstone in the 1990s. One of his tenants who pays $1,000 in monthly rent also owns a home near the shore in Southampton.

 

Source: ABA Journal.

The Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in Challenge to NYC’s Rent-Control Law

 

Posted by Trevor Burrus

Today, the Supreme Court declined to review Harmon v. Kimmel, a case challenging New York City’s rent control law. For a case that merely had the possibility of getting to the high court,Harmon has received a surprising amount of attention. A lot of this attention is due to the persistence of Mr. Harmon, who has admirably been fighting this important battle on behalf of thousands of similarly situated landlords who are forced to subsidize cheap rents, often for tenants who can easily afford to pay the market price. According to the Wall Street Journal, one of the Harmons’ rent-controlled tenants even “owns a second home near the shore in Southampton, where she spends weekends gardening and playing tennis.”

As I said in January in a Reason.tv video, rent control is something that nearly every economist can agree on: it lowers the amount of housing, it lowers the quality of housing, it raises the total costs of finding and securing housing, and it doesn’t even guarantee that those who need cheaper housing will get it. Nevertheless, it seems as if rent control will remain as much a part ofNew York City’s culture as Broadway theatre and pizza.

In addition to the ill-effects of rent control on a housing market, perhaps the most pernicious aspect is that it allows lawmakers to force the costs of subsidizing others onto private individuals. New York Citycould certainly create a program in which tax dollars are used to directly subsidize the rents of those in need by giving money either to the tenant or to the landlord. The city could also provide more state-built, low-income housing. Either program could achieve the goals of rent control without many of the accompanying negative effects (although, of course, both programs would have many horrible problems of their own).

Such taxpayer-funded programs, however, would not serve the immediate goals of many city politicians: to provide benefits seemingly without cost. In a way, rent-control laws are a lot like the individual mandate of Obamacare currently under challenge in the Supreme Court. Both allow lawmakers to use regulatory requirements in lieu of raising taxes to pay for a program (I discussed how this works in Obamacare here). Rent-control laws permit lawmakers to avoid the political accountability of taxpayer-funded, on-budget subsidization by forcing individual property owners to subsidize tenants in the name of the “public good.” Whatever the merits of such a proposal, innocent landlords such as the Harmons should not be forced to become pawns in lawmakers’ attempts to avoid losing the next election.

It is unfortunate that the Court will not hear the case, but I applaud Mr. Harmon for bringing much-needed attention to an important issue.

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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