How the rent control debate is heating up

TRD New York /
Oct.October 04, 2019 11:00 AM
Across the country, tenant campaigns promoting rent caps just cause eviction legislation are gaining momentum. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has unveiled his own proposal for nationwide rent control. Illustration by Paul Dilakian

Across the country, tenant campaigns promoting rent caps just cause eviction legislation are gaining momentum. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has unveiled his own proposal for nationwide rent control. Illustration by Paul Dilakian

Rent control is having a moment. Debates about rent caps and other reforms are springing up across the country. 

Stories of rent control — though perhaps more fable than fact — date as far back as 150 B.C. In modern times, rent caps have been on the decline in the U.S., largely falling out of fashion after the 1980s. But lately, the policy has gained traction and is now the subject of at least one presidential campaign. 

In February, Oregon became the first to enact statewide rent control. California is following suit, though tenant advocates view the measure as watered down — the bill passed in September had a narrower definition of “good cause” eviction and exemptions for single-family homes. Meanwhile, New Jersey and Washington D.C. already have rent control policies on the books, though D.C.’s law is set to expire in 2020 (it’s widely expected to be renewed). There are also efforts to repeal laws in Chicago and elsewhere that explicitly bar rent control. 

Many of these efforts are being led by tenant groups and local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America — the same type of groups that pushed through the recent changes to New York’s rent stabilization law. It seems landlord groups have their work cut out for them in the years ahead.   

Speaking of rent regulation, it seems the de Blasio administration is predicting higher rent increases. 

On Wednesday, Louise Carroll, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said the Rent Guidelines Board will “do what is appropriate” in light of changes to the state’s rent law. She said small rent increases allowed by the RGB in recent years aren’t an indication of how the body will act in the future

“It’s not a guessing game when they issue these increases,” she said at a housing forum hosted by Crain’s in Midtown.

She wouldn’t explicitly say the RGB will approve rent hikes higher than the roughly 2 percent average of recent years, but her comments implied that would be the case, given that the state law severely restricted how and when landlords can increase rents. Plus, such comments from a top administration housing official are pretty telling, since the mayor appoints the rent board’s nine members.

What we’re thinking about next: When will Harry Macklowe’s Midtown skyscraper get off the ground? Will it happen? Send a note to [email protected]

Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded on Thursday was for a condo unit at 220 Central Park South in Midtown, at $22 million.
Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was for an apartment building at 60 Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village, at $9 million. 

The largest new building filing was for a 75,473-square-foot residential building at 232 East Broadway in the Lower East Side. Round Square Development filed the permit application. 

The most expensive residential listing to hit the market was for a condo unit at 252 East 57th Street in Sutton Place, at $7.8 million. Compass’ Shari Cohen has the listing. — Research by Mary Diduch

A thing we’ve learned…
Serdar Bilgili means “Commander-in-Chief, Well-Informed” in Turkish. Bilgili and Michael Shvo are buying the Coca-Cola building for $955 million. Thank you to Kevin Sun for providing this detail.

Top stories from our other markets:

For five year, Avi Dorfman has been fighting for a $200 million stake in Compass. In an Oct. 1 ruling, a New York judge denied the SoftBank-backed firm’s motion for summary judgment, and said Dorfman, who claims he co-founded the firm, is entitled to a jury trial. He may also be in line for monetary damages related to his claims that he helped CEO Robert Reffkin work on a concept for Compass but was later cut out of the action.

A parking lot along the North Branch Corridor could be the area’s first ever residential development. Brokerage firm Baum Realty is looking for a buyer for a 1.5 acre lot at 1050 N. Kingsbury Street, currently being used for parking, according to Crain’s. The brokers claim the lot is worth more than $13 million. The site is being billed as ideal for residential development and apparently doesn’t require extra approval from the state Environmental Protection Agency.

Michael Shvo and his partners snagged a $190 million construction loan from ACORE Capital for 9200 Wilshire Boulevard, a planned 54-unit condo project. Shvo and his partners Bilgili Group and Deutsche Finance purchased the shovel-ready development site in May for $130 million from New Pacific Realty with the help of a $51 million loan from ACORE. MVE Architects is designing the project.

An organic grocer is coming to the site of the former Palm Beach Post building as part of the new owner’s plans to redevelop the property. Tricera Capital announced its plans to rebrand the building that sits on 11 acres at 2751 South Dixie Highway. The property includes a 125,000 square feet of retail and 140,000 square feet of office space. The development will be rebranded as “The Press.”

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