As rent and tax reforms sweep US, real estate industry braces for fight with progressive lawmakers

From New York to California, bills are targeting big property owners

TRD NATIONAL /
Feb.February 18, 2019 12:00 PM

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Credit: Getty Images)

After making significant gains in the midterms elections, Democratic lawmakers now have their sights set on curbing big real estate players.

Bills are being introduced in states like New York, Illinois and California to strengthen rent controls and change tax laws, according the Wall Street Journal.

In New York, where the real estate lobby holds enormous power, progressives like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have vowed not to accept donations from the industry.

“We don’t make cigarettes or guns,” Jordan Barowitz, vice president of public affairs at the Durst Organization, told the Journal. “To say this industry is taboo seems to be painting with a very broad brush, and also a bit of scapegoating.”

Proposed rent reform in the state Senate also has landlords and developers worried. Real Estate Board of New York president John Banks said that laws aimed at making it difficult for landlords to raise rents “would be a serious financial blow to the industry.”

In Illinois, state representative Will Guzzardi reintroduced a bill last month that could overturn the state’s ban on rent controls, a move supported by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the option to change a constitutional amendment that keeps taxes low for commercial property owners was “on the table.” But during the midterms, voters rejected a ballot measure that would’ve allowed municipalities to implement apartment rent controls more easily.

However, in several states developers might benefit from new zoning laws that promote urban housing — a policy echoed in the presidential campaigns of Democrats Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. [WSJ] — Decca Muldowney


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