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The Twilight of Rent Control?

from the magazine

The Twilight of Rent Control?

Winter 1995
The Social Order
Economy, finance, and budgets

On November 8, voters in Massachusetts approved an initiative abolishing rent regulation statewide. The electoral earthquake of 1994 also creates new opportunities for sweeping away New York City's halfcenturyold rent regulations. It is high time to seize these opportunities: it has long been proven that the city's system of rent control and stabilization cripples the housing market and burdens its economy, while benefiting almost exclusively wealthy tenants of luxury apartments rather than the poor.

New York City's rent regulations are scheduled to expire in 1996. If Governor Pataki is serious about revitalizing New York and reinventing its government, all he has to do is veto any bill that would continue rent regulation. It's inconceivable that the Legislature would override his veto, given the State Senate's substantial Republican majority, now led by Joseph Bruno, a longtime critic of rent regulation. Or, as a compromise, the governor could use the threat of a veto to persuade the Legislature to phase out regulation.

Republican control of Congress creates a separate opportunity for rent deregulation. In 1981, New York's freshman Republican senator, Alfonse D'Amato, proposed legislation that would curtail housing subsidies for cities that have rent control, on the principle that the federal government shouldn't rescue cities from their own bad housing policies. Today, with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and Senator D'Amato chairing the Senate Banking Committee, such a bill stands a real chance of passage. It would give Republicans an opportunity to show they're serious about slashing welfare for the rich.

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