Dear WestView News,
Your February 2018 article “The Rent is Due—$127.61 Please” is one of the most misleading articles I have ever read on rent control, and probably a plant by a landlord association.
Professor Neuman obviously doesn’t know how rent control works, or has ulterior motives. It is different from rent stabilization and is supervised by the New York City Department of Finance. Currently, under rent control, my rent has gone up 9% last year and is slated to go up 9% this year, and 7.5% each year after until my landlord drives me out.
Any rent-controlled premises that has low rent has it only because the owner has decided not to fill out the paper work for yearly increases (including fuel and capital improvements) or the building has serious violations.
Few people in New York know what has happened to rent control over the years. The City Council under Christine Quinn passed on the problem to New York State, which is why there are no public meetings on the subject.
Get the facts straight, Professor Neuman.
Response from W. Russell Neuman
to Earl Carter’s Letter
I want to thank Earl Carter for drawing further attention to the issue of affordable housing in the West Village. The tension between the Village’s longstanding reputation as a community of struggling artists, with a tradition of counter-culture creativity, and the current Village dominated by $10 and $20 million townhouses is one of the most important conflicts we face. I concluded my piece with a salute to WestView News as an important forum for that ongoing discussion.
Carter and I are on the same side of this issue. Something needs to be done about affordable housing in the West Village. As I noted in the article, rent control has become a rarified phenomenon. The law requires continuous occupancy from July 1, 1971 in a building built before 1947. In the 1950s, about two million New York apartments qualified for rent control. Now, the number is 27,000. Within my piece, I made a clear distinction between rent control and rent stabilization. Rent-stabilized apartments qualify in buildings that were constructed before 1974 and have more than six units. These apartments include limits on how much the landlord can increase the rent each year as determined by the New York City Rent Guidelines Board and a guaranteed right to renew the lease. As you might expect, this is an annual hot-button issue.
For renewal leases beginning between October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018, the rent increase for rent-stabilized apartment and loft renewals have been determined at 1.25% for one-year leases and 2% for two-year leases.
It gets more complicated if the landlord has made significant improvements to the property or if a tenant is paying something called ‘preferential rent.’ That may be the case in Carter’s situation. There are only about 840,000 rent-stabilized apartments in the city so they are hard to find.
Although some of Carter’s speculations are incorrect, the main point of the letter is well taken. Perhaps I should be insulted at Carter’s thought that I am some sort of agent of a landlords’ association, a stoolie, or a plant. I am not now, nor have I ever been, an agent of any landlords. I don’t even know any landlords. I suspect they prefer other social circles. But I am not insulted and let me tell you why.
Carter is historically correct in noting that landlords and their lawyers frequently use, shall we say, “paid associates” to create the appearance of public support for their policy interests. One of my favorite histories on that topic is about Robert Moses and his developer friends who battled with our local heroine Jane Jacobs. (This is discussed in the book Wrestling with Moses by Anthony Flint.)
As I say, I’m not a landlord guy; I’m with Carter on this issue. We need affordable housing in the West Village. If Carter’s landlord is demanding 9% and the law says 2%, Carter needs a lawyer. Wouldn’t it be nice if lawyers were not necessary for this sort of thing? That type of annual conflict is built into the structure of the rent control and rent stabilization systems. That was the point of my piece. I think we can do better. Let’s use WestView News as a forum for moving in a better direction.
—W. Russell Neuman