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NYT: Let us count the reasons why affordable rent is vanishing

We noted in a recent blog post the view of the New York Times' editorial board that affordable housing in NYC is under an onslaught, and for myriad reasons.

The paper stresses that change is badly and imminently needed to reverse decades'-long policy enactments that have worked to erode the city's rent-regulated housing stock. The board urges high voter turnout in upcoming elections that will hopefully install new lawmakers having a pro-tenant agenda that can reverse decline and promote reform. The following are pointed to as being especially prominent catalysts that have driven rents to prohibitively high levels.

The Urstadt Law enacted in 1971 took necessary powers away from city officials that were addressing NYC-specific problems by enacting laws more restrictive than otherwise applicable across the state.

That handcuffing was coupled a generation later in the early 1990s when state legislators allowed for apartments to be deregulated once their rent reached a certain level. The Times now laments its statement issued at that time that "little change" would ensue. In fact, a massive dislocation has resulted.

Lawmakers followed up that change with an even bigger one, namely, landlords' entitlement to jack rents up by 20% on vacated units. The editorial board deplores that allowance, stressing that it has provided "a powerful incentive for landlords to continually oust tenants."

And then there is the opportunity for managers to raise rents when certain renovations are undertaken. That has yielded a rash of unnecessary and artificially inflated improvements. Many such projects are additionally accompanied by high noise levels and continued disruption that harasses tenants and pressures them to leave.

So-called "preferential rent" is yet another phenomenon that can sting tenants. Although it sets forth attractive lease terms, it allows landlords to demand market-rate adjustments upon contract termination. Many tenants are driven from their homes as a result.

"Money grubbing" is what has centrally led to the current status quo, claims the Times. The state's real estate industry has funneled scores of millions of dollars to legislators and housing officials who thereafter endorse landlord-friendly policies.

That all needs to change, asserts the paper. And the editorial board says it can, given a number of specified adjustments. We will take a look at the Times' recommendations in our next blog post. 

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