Challenge to ‘Unconstitutional’ NY Rent Laws Rejected

by News Guy on April 30, 2012

The Supreme Court has rejected a constitutional challenge to a post-World War II housing measure in New York city that caps the rents of more than a million apartments in the city. On Monday (April 24th), the court refused to hear the case regarding rent control ordinance, landing a blow to many New York landlords who had hoped they may be able to increase their profits.

The appeal was brought by James and Jeanne Harmon, the owners of a five-story brownstone building in Manhattan, who say the regulation is forcing them to rent three apartments for less than half of their market value. Rent control ordinance means that the government, rather than property owners, sets the maximum rent increases each year.

The Harmons argue that this violates the Fifth Amendment, which states that private property shall not “be taken for public use without just compensation”. They claim that they are effectively subsidizing their tenants, and as the ordinance also allows tenants to renew their leases indefinitely, potentially affecting their simple landlord’s insurance cover.

However, the Real Rent Reform Campaign welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, describing the case as “misguided” and representing a “very real threat to New York’s ability to continue to maintain viable working and middle class housing in a city often defined by wealth”. “Millions of New Yorkers depend on rent regulation for dependable, affordable housing, and the city depends on rent regulation to maintain stable neighborhoods and strong communities,” said the campaign in a news release.

Last month, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg extended the regulations for another three years by re-declaring a state of housing emergency – a state of emergency that has been in place for more than 40 years. City officials say the measures are necessary to prevent housing shortages and prevent profiteering.

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