NYC Rent Control to SCOTUS

Rent control and rent stabilization in New York City has been a contentious issue since its inception in the 1920s and after when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law 60 years the Emergency Price Control Act (EPCA) providing for a universal, nationwide price regulatory system. For a history of rent control in NY, see this link. Now a pro se petition for a writ of certiorari may give the Supreme Court an opportunity to reconsider its ruling in Yee v. City of Escondido (1992) that “government regulation of the rental relationship does not constitute a physical taking”. The case asks the Court to review the ruling in Harmon v. Markus where Second Circuit upheld the district court’s dismissal of the landlord’s complaint against the NYC Rent Guidelines Board claiming that the RSL is an unconstitutional taking of their property under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The NY Times story A Landlord’s Uphill Fight to Ease Rent Restrictions provides the facts of the case.

An op-ed (subscription required – see a Brooklyn Law School reference librarian) in the Wall Street Journal by NYU Law Prof. Richard A. Epstein argues “Rent control and rent stabilization are inimical to the long-term health of New York City. Ordinary tenants paying market rents contribute their fair share to the public treasury. By contrast, rent-controlled tenants on lifetime leases who have a specially privileged legal status are a constant drain on the community, discouraging investment in residential rental real estate by posing a persistent if inchoate threat of subjecting future properties to rent control. Mr. Harmon is asking the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution and make right a long-standing wrong. It should take up his invitation and do so.”

The US Supreme Court docket shows that a number of interested parties have file amicus briefs including the Rent Stabilization Association of New York, Inc., the Pacific Legal Foundation, and the Atlantic Legal Foundation and Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. The City of New York has until February 3, 2012 to respond.

The BLS Library has in its New York collection Rent Control: Statutes, Documents, Decisions and Annotated Bibliography by Robert Allan Carter (Call #KFN5837.5.R3 C37) and Rent Control: Regulation and the Rental Housing Market edited by W. Dennis Keating (Call #KF6068.R3 K43 1998) which provides a thorough assessment of the evolution of rent regulation in North American cities. Contributors sketch rent control’s origins, legal status, economic impacts, political dynamics, and social meaning. Case studies of rent regulation in specific North American cities from New York and Washington, DC, to Berkeley and Toronto are also presented. This is an important primer for students, advocates, and practitioners of housing policy and provides essential insights on the intersection of government and markets.