NYC Rent Wars: Landlords Right & Duty . . . Big Profit. Tenants . . . Help!

NY landlord wet dream: overpriced paint job + overpriced filigree = rent control busted!

There would seem to be a growing consensus worldwide that housing renters need at least some kind of protection from free-market land and housing speculation. But how?

Within capitalist societies there is agreement that human shelter must also be a source of profit-making and wealth accumulation. (Removal of housing and land speculation as a permitted activity would quite properly be labelled a ‘socialist’ initiative, unlike so many criticized government initiatives which are simply ‘social’, not socialist.)

However, it is becoming more and more impossible to deny the current impoverishing impact upon renters of purchase and resale of land and housing for profit and wealth accumulation. As a result, nations, states and cities are exploring their mandates and regulatory powers to afford renters both stability in their housing as well as a reasonable degree of economy (i.e. the affordability of rental housing needs to be protected).

Oregon has recently passed a rent control bill1, breaching the previously united front of all American states against any but the slightest interference with the rights of landlords to profit from their property ownership.

Currently other states are exploring Oregon’s lead and looking with interest at ways of providing more protections for renters. That means conducting research in a field where highly polarized viewpoints vie for attention.

Discussions are fraught with assumptions about ‘right kinds’ of renters, as well as predictions of devastation that rent controls may wreak on otherwise healthy landlord and development industries2.

Governments with long histories of rent controls encounter fear-mongering (indeed they may initiate it!) every time changes in legislation are explored. After which (in the Province of Ontario at least), the very profitable landlord and development construction industries goes back to profit taking, and some residents at least continue to feel secure that their rent won’t suddenly go through the roof, nor will they be evicted in the morning.

In America, it has largely been left to a handful of cities to rein in unbridled speculation, as well as unscrupulous activities designed to circumvent existing rent controls.3 New York City has a long history of rent protection, but more and more affordable New York housing is vanishing as landlords find ways, legal and illegal, of removing controls to increase their profits.

For all those jurisdictions interested in changing the balance between the rights of landlords and those of tenants, New York State has just passed a bill that builds on New York City’s long experience. The showcase of options in its rent control legislation will be of great interest to other cities, states and countries anxious to maintain the affordability of rental housing. Read more in the New York Times: How New Rent Laws in New York Help All Tenants

For those who do not subscribe to the Times, or have no more ‘free’ reads available, you might consider exploring, in CURBED: Inside New York’s Landmark Deal To Protect Renters

An article in Bloomberg, focused on the New York State legislation, acknowledges the tenant protections it affords, but casts doubt on the overall impact on affordable housing. Read more in Bloomberg: What Rent Control Protects And What It Doesn’t

European municipalities and regions are also suffering from imbalances between landlord and tenant rights which are leading to a loss of affordable housing. For a look at how cities are coping in Spain, with links to other European initiatives, a further Bloomberg article makes interesting reading: Spain Is Latest Battleground For Global Affordable Housing


  1. Oregon Puts The Boots (Though Soft Velvet Ones) To Landlord Bottoms
  2. For an example of this kind of often-confusing rhetoric, read more at Boston’s National Public Radio Station, WBUR: These States Are Turning To Rent Control: How It Affects Affordable Housing
  3. Read more in Crain’s New York Business: Landlords Are Exploiting A Key Loophole To Raise Rents On Thousands Of Apartments


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