The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will not hear a case brought forward by a Manhattan couple who claimed the laws forced them to rent apartments at rents 59 percent below market rate, meaning that the city's rent regulation laws will stay in place for the foreseeable future. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
There was relief for tenants in nearly one million rent stabilized apartments citywide Monday, as the U.S. Supreme Court declined to wade into the thorny issue of the city's longstanding rent protections.
"This is a great victory. And it will keep New york affordable to those who wouldn't be able to afford to live here otherwise," said Manhattan Councilwoman Jessica Lappin.
The court was petitioned by Jim Harmon, who owns this brownstone on manhattan's upper West Side. The current rent laws prevent him from taking back any of his three rent-stabilized units.
In a surprise move, the Supreme Court asked the city and state to respond to the petition, but in the end the justices declined to hear the case, which centers on the city's housing crisis, which is defined as a vacancy rate below 5 percent.
In a statement, Harmon said, "Right now, there are 68,000 vacant apartments in the city. That is not an emergency by any definition. Because of rent stabilization, it will now continue to be difficult for us to keep our home of five generations."
"We understood that it was an uphill fight for the judges to accept to hear the case. We thought it was the right time for them to evaluate it," said Joe Strasburg of the Rent Stabilization Association. "We had rent regulation that was always deemed to be temporary in new York. 'Temporary' is defined over 50 years of permanency."
Tenant advocates welcomed the decision. They are pushing for a package of bills in Albany that would strengthen tenant protections.
"We fought a really hard fight last year to make sure that the laws were not allowed to sunset, when they were scheduled to sunset. And we now basically have the road cleared ahead to pursue strengthening tenant laws," said Maggie Russell-Ciardi of Tenants And Neighbors.
"To the extent the Supreme Court is saying the rent regulations will stand, I think that is good news for the State of New York. Rent regulations are very important to the tenants of New York, as you know," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
For those who were hoping the Supreme Court would intervene, the Harmon case really did represent the last, great hope.
On the flip side, tenants and advocates are now confident that rent regulations will remain in place for at least a generation or more.