REBNY throws support behind CHIP, RSA rent law challenge

The group has stayed relatively quiet on the lawsuit until now

From left: CHIP's Jay Martin, REBNY's Jim Whelan and RSA's Joe Strasburg
From left: CHIP's Jay Martin, REBNY's Jim Whelan and RSA's Joe Strasburg

After staying relatively quiet, the Real Estate Board of New York has thrown its support behind a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s rent law.

REBNY filed a friend of the court brief on Friday backing the Rent Stabilization Association and the Community Housing Improvement Program’s lawsuit alleging that rent stabilization violates the U.S. Constitution. The complaint, filed in July, alleges that rent stabilization as a concept violates the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.

”This further demonstrates that the industry is unified in its opposition to these terrible laws,” a representative for CHIP and RSA said in a statement. “We appreciate and welcome REBNY’s support in our efforts to help a broad and diverse group of rental property owners.”

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REBNY argues that rent stabilization was enacted post-World War II as a temporary measure that has since been “misapplied.” The group points to a clause first introduced in the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974, which defined a “housing emergency” in a municipality when the vacancy rate was 5 percent or lower. In its brief, REBNY echoed the lawsuit’s claims that such a metric is an inadequate measure of housing need because it doesn’t take into account how demand differs according to rent rates. The brief also argued that the state’s rent stabilization law’s lack of an income requirement means regulated apartments aren’t necessarily going to residents who are most in need.

“‘Affordability’ is, thus, a convenient political catch-phrase used to justify a heavily regulated housing system that has no affordability standard,” the organization wrote in its brief. “The continuing solution cannot be solely burdening private owners with ever increasing infringements on their property rights that bear no rational relationship to the stated goals of the regulatory regime.”

REBNY’s brief follows the announcement last month that several national real estate groups are providing financial backing for the lawsuit. It was not immediately clear if REBNY’s support involves its checkbook. RSA and CHIP’s members are mostly small- to medium-sized multifamily landlords, while REBNY represents some of the city’s biggest developers.

Other lawsuits challenging the rent law have been filed since June. Another complaint, financed by a group of landlords that includes Clipper Equity, was filed last month.