It Looks Like the Rules of Rent Control Are About to Change

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 09: New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference with current New York Governor David Paterson (NOT PICTURED) November 9, 2010 in New York City. Cuomo spoke about looming budget cuts, taxes and the state of the economy. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) Photo: Mario Tama/2010 Getty Images

For the first time in decades, it looks as though rent-control advocates might get their way. Since 1993, state law has enabled landlords to convert any vacant rent-controlled apartments into regular, market-rate units when their rents hit $2,000 a month. That provision allowed landlords to deregulate at least 100,000 apartments. But the rent-control law, which affects about 1 million apartments citywide, is up for renewal or elimination. Advocates naturally want to eliminate landlords' ability to convert rent-stabilized apartments to market-rate ones, or at least increase the $2,000 cap. A higher cap would slow the rate at which apartments are deregulated — something the real-estate industry had fought hard resist. But it looks like the tides are changing. First Governor Cuomo, who had the option of coming out against rent regulation altogether, said publicly that he supports it in some form. Now, with the understanding that the law would be extended, rather than repealed, a powerful landlord group has signaled that they're open to the increasing the $2,000 threshold.

"We are prepared to look at a higher number," Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, a powerful lobbying group, said in an interview last week. "It depends what the rest of the package is."

The rest of the package that Spinola's referring to is property taxes. During a press conference last week, Cuomo linked the idea of rent regulation and a 2 percent cap on property taxes — a little bit whole lot of sugar to sweeten the deal for the real-estate industry. Well, you knew there had to be a catch somewhere.

$2,000 Rent-Deregulation Limit Up in the Air [WSJ]
Cuomo, Big Real Estate Move Closer on Rent Regs [NYO]