The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the city and state to respond to Upper West Side landlord James Harmon’s claim that New York City’s rent-stabilization law is an unconstitutional infringement on property owners. Many previous legal challenges to rent regulation have failed, and two lower courts dismissed Harmon’s claim. But if the Supreme Court takes the case, the future of New York City’s one million rent-regulated apartments could hang in the balance.
J-51 AND THE ROBERTS CASE
New York City’s significant property tax abatement for owners who renovate apartment buildings expired at the end of 2011. While most observers expect legislators will renew the law, its passage may become entwined with the fallout from the state Court of Appeals’ Roberts decision. That case established that the large Stuyvesant Town complex in Manhattan and similar properties that received J-51 benefits should not have taken apartments out of rent regulation. The court’s decision did not clarify many of its consequences, and a bill to do so passed the Senate last year but was not taken up in the Assembly.
Construction unions want the city and state to require a prevailing wage on affordable-housing construction projects, though many builders and nonprofit agencies active in the field say it would make those developments unaffordable. In New York City, the City Council recently held a hearing on a bill known as Intro 730 that would require the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to disclose information about contractors working on subsidized projects. An HPD assistant commissioner was accused of taking $600,000 in bribes and kickbacks from developers of affordable housing, and unions contend contractors take advantage of nonunion workers and build substandard homes.
Federal, state and local budget cuts are curtailing the ambitions of government programs aimed at building affordable housing, maintaining public housing, enforcing housing codes and helping homeowners facing foreclosure. The federal government cut $89 million from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the city budget projects fl at spending for the agency, and the state eliminated $12 million for housing nonprofi ts and $25 million for foreclosure prevention.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new Tenant Protection Unit in his State of the State address after he was pressured by minority lawmakers who said he had not done enough to help low-income New Yorkers. He has refrained from announcing other major new housing initiatives, however. Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Vito Lopez traditionally drives the Albany agenda for housing groups by urging more public-sector resources for affordable housing and more private-sector programs that require affordable housing in exchange for tax breaks. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has overseen the $8.5 billion New Housing Marketplace plan to build or preserve 165,000 affordable-housing units, and city Housing Commissioner Mathew Wambua hopes to reach that goal ahead of its 2014 target.
An array of organizations such as the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development and the Metropolitan Council on Housing advocate for affordable housing and changes to the rent regulations. Others, such as the Citizens Housing & Planning Council and the Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy at New York University, specialize in studies to understand the state of New York City housing and recommend policy changes. Many other groups work to develop affordablehousing programs through the many city, state and federal programs that subsidize it.
REAL ESTATE OWNERS
The Real Estate Board of New York, one of the most powerful interest groups in the city and state, is the leading voice for the business of owning, leasing, buying and selling property. The Rent Stabilization Association has a smaller public profi le but recently launched a TV advertising campaign to boost its goal of loosening New York City rent regulations. The Community Housing Improvement Program also represents apartment building owners, and works with them on a variety of operational issues as well as rent regulations.
Tags: affordable housing, Andrew Cuomo, assembly, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, Citizens Housing & Planning Council, Community Housing Improvement Program, funding, Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Studies, Housing Preservation and Development, J-51, James Harmon, labor, mathew-wambua, Metropolitan Council on Housing, Michael Bloomberg, New Housing Marketplace, New York University, prevailing wage, Real Estate Board, rent regulations, Rent Stabilization Association, roberts, Senate, Stuyvesant Town, Supreme Court, tenant protection unit, Unions, Vito Lopez
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