Rent Control in New York City
by Michael A. Stegman
At first, it seems absurd that New York City's experience with rent control and regulation is relevant to other communities considering the adoption of such ordinances. After all, New York has almost four times the proportion of units in multifamily structures (that is, with five units or more) as does the nation as a whole, and more than one-third of its apartments are in buildings containing at least fifty units. Two out of three households across the country own their homes but in New York less than three in ten do. In New York more than one in five homeowners lives in cooperatives or condominiums, while across the nation just one in forty does. In short, New York's housing situation seems unique enough to prevent it from being a model for other communities.
Regardless of these differences, New York's almost half century of experience with rent control and regulation has provided the model upon which others are built or against which they are contrasted. Its basic and generic features can be abstracted from the city's unique housing market. This chapter describes New York's situation and then extracts five key issues with which the city is concerned and from which other communities might learn: whether maximum permissible rent increases also become minimum rent increases; why moderate forms of rent regulation do not protect low- and moderate-income families from high rent burdens ; the relationship between rent control and underutilization of living space; the difficulty of determining the effects of regulation on the returns to housing suppliers; and rent control as a form of social planning.