High court keeps rent laws

High court keeps rent laws
Photo by Nykeema Williams
By Philip Newman

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on whether New York’s rent control laws are constitutional, leaving the regulations intact in Queens and the rest of the city.

The high court had no comment and offered no information on details of the vote by court justices. Four of the justices were raised in New York City.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to consider the case means the rent control regulations will continue as they have for more than 40 years.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) applauded the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I’m pleased that the Supreme Court has refused to hear the case. The decision is consistent with longstanding precedent that affirms the city’s and state’s authority to enact these laws, which are an integral part of the city’s effort to provide affordable housing to New Yorkers.”

The state Department of Housing reported that in Queens there are about 143,000 rent-stabilized apartments and some 5,500 rent-controlled apartments. In 2006, there were more than 10,000 rent-controlled apartments in Queens and 156,958 rent-stabilized apartments.

Throughout the five boroughs there are more than 1 million apartments under some sort of rent regulations.

The case was brought before the Supreme Court by James Harmon Jr. and his wife Jeanne of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They own a brownstone and rent out six apartments in the building. The Harmons complained that three of their apartments each bring in about $1,000 a month, far below the market rate, which they contended was a violation of the Fifth Amendment governing private property rights.

Rent control and stabilization regulations apply to about half of New York City’s rental properties.

The Rent Stabilization Association, representing more than 25,000 landlords, has been fighting for decades in an attempt to abolish the rent regulation system.

The state Legislature renewed the present rent regulation system last year for four years.

State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) maintains the rent regulation system “must be strengthened and extended to protect working families under siege by the real estate interests.”

“Every year more than 10,000 rent regulation apartments are lost because of loopholes in rent laws,” Silver is quoted as saying on his website.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or phone at 718-260-4536.