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Crain’s New York Business: Rent-law reform may repeat mistakes of past

Crain’s New York Business: Rent-law reform may repeat mistakes of past

Greg David, columnist for Crain’s New York Business, summarizes the history of rent laws in New York.

The federal government imposed price controls throughout the economy during World War II. After the war, virtually every city in America let them lapse—but not New York. Rents here were kept from rising much for apartments built before 1947. For buildings built after that, the market set the rents.

The city boomed in the 1960s, but fearing an extension of rent control, developers were hesitant to build. In 1968 and 1969, apartment completions were less than 10% of the 1963 peak. Of course, rents soared for market-rate units. John Lindsay, very unpopular and desperate to be re-elected in 1969, took up the issue, using rhetoric against landlords that would make today’s Democratic Socialists wince. He succeeded in extending rent regulation to all buildings then in existence. The state took over the system and in 1974 codified it into two segments: rent control for pre-1947 units and rent stabilization—which allowed modest annual increases—for units built after that year.

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