The prudence of rent control policy is currently beyond me. However, media bias is not.
From a straining-objectivity City Room blog at the NY Times:
Democrats Press Cuomo on Rent Regulations
By Nicholas Confessore March 16, 2011, 2:25 pm
ALBANY — A coalition comprising nearly every Democratic state lawmaker from New York City urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in a letter, posted below, on Wednesday to press for extending and tightening the state’s rent regulation laws as part of the budget deal he is negotiating with the Legislature.
“If the state does not act, millions of working- and middle-class New Yorkers will be at immediate risk of losing their homes,” warned the lawmakers, about 90 of whom signed the letter to Mr. Cuomo. “We ask that you act boldly on tenants’ behalf by requiring these reforms to be a part of any budget agreement.”
The article provides no statistic to justify this claim.
The closest we come to concrete evidence is from the actual letter to Gov. Cuomo: “No one knows how many apartments have been illegally deregulated by dishonest landlords, but the best estimates are that more than 300,000 apartments have been lost since 1994.”
Dismissing the tenuousness of these figures, they come out to almost 19,000 illegally deregulated apartments per year, a far cry from the “millions…at immediate risk.”
But even these values are irrelevant because they do not indicate how many families lost their homes under deregulated price-gouging. Indeed, neither the article nor the letter indicate historical cases of rent deregulation and tenant exodus. Why is that?
Mr. Cuomo this month rebuffed suggestions by tenant advocates that he include a rent law extension in his amended executive budget, released March 3.
The state budget is due at the end of March. The regulations, which limit the rent that landlords can charge on over one million apartments in New York City and its immediate suburbs, are set to expire on June 15, raising fears that hundreds of thousands of tenants will face substantial rent increases that they cannot afford.
At the present rate, it will take 6 paragraphs to lower the number of tenants at risk of eviction to the hundreds. Perhaps the entire problem could be solved before we reach the end of the article.
Landlords, who have invested millions of dollars in lobbying state officials on rent regulation, have argued that the laws have discouraged them from investing in improvements to rental apartments and ultimately depress the supply of affordable apartments.
You see, these are not worthy concerns. They are merely the concerns of greedy lobbyists.
Of course, there are no lobbyists funneling money to Democrats on the other side of the issue. Otherwise the NY Times would have mentioned it.
By the way, the Times does not explain what the landlords mean when they claim the laws “ultimately depress the supply of affordable apartments.” It’s likely not important for a city that is, according to the letter to Gov. Cuomo, in a state of “housing emergency,” given the dangerously low levels of vacancy.
The letter to Mr. Cuomo reflects growing concerns among Democrats who support rent regulation that they will find their backs against the wall should they be forced to negotiate an extender bill separately from the budget, as they did in 2003, the last time the laws faced expiration.
Then, Gov. George E. Pataki and the Republican-controlled State Senate ultimately agreed to renew the laws, but they forced the Democratic-controlled Assembly to accept changes that tenant advocates believe have allowed landlords to start charging market rates on tens of thousands of formerly regulated apartments in recent years…
My, how evil are those Republicans. And my, how elusive are those statistics.
Along with extending a temporary income tax surcharge on high-earning New Yorkers, the rent regulations stand as one of the major priorities of Assembly Democrats this legislative session. But unlike the way the [sic.] handled the income tax surcharge, Assembly Democrats did not include a package of rent regulations in the one-house budget bill the chamber approved on Wednesday…
Their goal, the Democrats said, was to persuade Mr. Cuomo to include the rent regulations in any emergency budget bill, essentially using his leverage to force Senate Republicans to accept extended and strengthened rent laws…
[Assemblyman Brian] Kavanagh added: “We think there’s an endgame here that the governor’s going to put out language in place that neither house of the Legislature will be in a position to change. And we believe that rent regulation needs to be part of that.”
That’s a fine how-do-you-do to the governor from the Democratic legislators. Why didn’t they take care of this “major priority” themselves?
For Mr. Cuomo, the rent laws may represent an opportunity to mollify Democratic lawmakers who are uncomfortable — and in some cases openly opposing — his cuts to education and health care spending, but without breaking his campaign pledges to rein in spending and oppose new taxes.
Or this is a test of Gov. Cuomo’s left-wing credentials.
Yet the issue is not without complications: Mr. Cuomo, like past governors, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars of from [sic.] real estate interests and from landlords who oppose expanding the rent regulation.
Moreover, the Committee to Save New York, a business coalition allied with the governor that has dedicated millions of dollars to defending Mr. Cuomo’s budget proposal, includes real estate developers and trade associations that staunchly oppose strengthening rent-law expansion. Thrusting the measure into his budget negotiations could fracture the coalition just when Mr. Cuomo most needs its help.
Surely, Cuomo has never received funds from tenant interest groups. Never from the NAACP, the ACLU, or (incarnations of) ACORN. After all, these lobby groups do not exist, according to the NY Times, and they certainly do not fund advocates of rent regulations.
But supporters of the rent laws said they feared that allowing them to expire would force many New Yorkers out of their homes, especially in Manhattan.
This article has eroded the risk of rent deregulation than any state policy could ever hope to accomplish.
“I think it will signal the demise of the city as a place for middle-income people to live,” said Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat. “It will suck the life energy out of this city eventually. People who come to the city with dreams of invention and creation and innovation will not be allowed to live here.”
Of course, landowning is not one such dream according to Rep. Rosenthal, who is effectively advocating for higher landowning startup costs.
And where are the advocacy groups, who fear for many lower-income landlords, who will be forced to give up the landowning profession without the ability to charge market-level rents?