Monday, April 23, 2012

In blow to property rights Supreme Court rejects rent control case

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a constitutional challenge to New York City’s famed rent-control ordinance, a post-World War II housing measure that limits the rents of more than a million apartments.

The court’s action is a setback for property-rights activists, who had hoped a more conservative court would protect landlords and a free market in rentals. For decades, critics have said rent-control laws deny property owners the right to fully profit from their investment. 

The justices, four of whom grew up in New York City, turned away an appeal from James and Jeanne Harmon, who own a five-story brownstone building on West 76th Street in Manhattan. The couple says they have no choice but to rent three apartments on the upper floors for less than half of their market value. 

They also say that one of their tenants can pay a $1,500-a-month mortgage on a Long Island house because he pays only $951 a month to rent a unit in Harmon’s building.
Read the rest here.


123 said...

Isn't the core of this issue the fact that landlords were never required to offer rent stabilization and rent control (definitely the former if not the latter, they are two different programs). When these contracts were initially entered into, the landlords saw it in their best interests to do so and new that these agreements could last a long time. They can't usue the courts to invalidate a contract they entered into knowingly just because they never imagined market rates would go so high and tenants would stay so long.

Rent stabilization, etc. are examples of government recognizing that housing is not simpy or solely an investment commodity. Rental apartment are also homes for people, and both neighborhoods and the city benefit from a certain amount of stability in the residential population of a given area.

Markets are not sacrosanct, they do not take into account the very real needs of cities and communities.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

No. It's just a transfer of wealth to an upper-middle class yuppie, so the landlords will end up competing on how little they spend on maintenance.

NYC is a Potemkin village.

Anonymous said...

123 - the US has an official religion called The Market. Those who follow it worship the flesh-god Baal - they sacrifice their neighbors, the young, the old, the sick, the homeless, to batten off The Market religion. They have their reward now: pray for them that God may soften their hearts and turn them from evil.

God help the Holy Orthodox Church in this land: The Market seeks to devour Her from the inside.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Anon - That is pure misguided sentiment and slander. Even the apostles worked for a living and set criteria for charitable receipts. Net tax-paying Americans give billions to charity while simultaneously caring for their families, paying for an enormous welfare state, and trying to save something for their children's education and retirement. If Orthodox lands had this figured out, why are so many Orthodox over here?

Yuppies living in rent-controlled apartments do not support your thesis.

123 said...

Most of those living in rent-stabilized and rent controlled apartments in NYC that I knew were far from yuppies. At most, they ended up being able to continue living in neighborhoods where the average income far surpassed theirs. The point is neighborhood stability cushioning tendencies for neighborhoods to become either ghettos or gentrified. The poor, working and middle classes can afford to live in neighborhoods that gentrify with hedge fund and banking money; the middle and working class will bet on staying in decaying neighborhoods so the community will not completely implode.

There are arguments made by sustainable housing advocates against rent stabilization and rent control, but they are simply there to better meet the social goals of a community while also better meeting the also valuable needs of investors and property owners. There are very good programs, for instance, that give very expensive units to artists and the poor so as to maintain mixed income neighborhoods and buildings. These allow development while also acknowledging that housing and communities are more than commodities - and homes, neighbors and connected communities are especially necessary if one expects communities to pick up the slack for a rather crumbling, underfunded social saftey net.