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Realtors among four industry groups SCOTUS review of NY Rent Stabilization Law

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Seattle City Council Rejects Rent Control Bill
At its August 1st meeting, the Seattle City Council rejected a rent control bill sponsored by outgoing member Kshama Sawant. She was joined by Tammy Morales in voting in favor of the proposed measure. Six members voted no. Seattle King County Realtors, led by Housing Specialist Randy Bannecker, advocated to defeat the bill. SKCR efforts included testifying and submitting written comment, strategizing and coordinating with other industry groups, and media outreach.  

The National Association of Realtors® and three other associations filed a joint amicus brief in June supporting two cases asking the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to New York’s Rent Stabilization Law (RSL), which was first enacted in 1969.

In their filing, the real estate organizations said the rent controls were “intrusive and unconstitutional actions,” and called upon the Court to intervene “to provide guidance to lower courts assessing challenges to burgeoning restrictions on private property.”

New York’s law governs buildings built before 1974 with six or more apartment units. Owners of these rent-stabilized apartments are prohibited from raising rents above a limit set annually by a city-wide oversight board. They are also required to renew a tenant’s lease, with limited exceptions.

NAR joined the National Apartment Association, the National Association of Home Builders and the Mortgage Bankers Association in filing the amicus brief. The groups said the city’s RSL “demonstrates the harmful effects of misguided housing policies that restrict private-property rights,” adding such laws “exacerbate housing supply and affordability problems by reducing the quantity of available housing.” They also reduce housing quality, decrease consumer mobility and entry into the housing market, and provide an inequitable solution to issues of housing affordability, according to the filing.

In a SCOTUSblog post, author Kalvis Golde wrote “only a handful of residential units” in New York are rent-controlled, while about a third of the city’s housing stock is subject to rent stabilization provisions.  

Golde noted the state legislature has “repeatedly amended the rent-stabilization law in response to ongoing pressure from both tenants, who argue that rents remain excessive, and landlords, who insist that the rising costs of maintaining housing have outstripped their ability to increase rents.”

New York has an estimated one million apartments. Research by brokerage firm Douglas Elliman found median rents in Manhattan reached a record high in May of $4,395 per month.

A report by the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, cites Census data from June 2022 indicating 22 percent of the city’s rent-stabilized tenants had incomes of $100,000 or more. That report, based on the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, also found that rent-regulated units “have twice as many leaks, three times as many heating breakdowns, and three times as much mold.” Also notably, 176,000 regulated units had three or more maintenance issues.

“Bad policy alone will not prompt the Court to agree to review a series of lower court decisions which to date have upheld New York’s law. But other problems with the 2019 Housing Vacancy and Tenant Protection Law could,” AEI stated, saying the matter or property rights is at the heart of the arguments for a review.

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