If Lawmakers Don’t Act, Rents Could Rise in NYC

ALBANY (AP) -

Cynthia Chaffee’s Manhattan apartment would likely go for more than $5,000 a month if the landlord charged market price. But Chaffee pays thousands less thanks to the city’s long-standing rent stabilization rules — regulations that will expire this year if lawmakers don’t act.

The 63-year-old paid $300 a month when she moved into the one-bedroom space in 1978. To Chaffee, the rules governing how much she and more than 2 million other New York City residents pay in rent protect the city’s diversity and character.

“The city is changing enough as it is, and these laws are so important to so many people,” said Chaffee, who won’t specify how much she pays now. “If you want to have neighborhoods, if you want to have families and artists and elderly living in New York City, we need these laws. Can you imagine what New York City would be like without them?”

The laws governing the rent paid by Chaffee and more than 2 million other New York City residents are due to expire June 15, and state lawmakers are preparing for what could be a bruising debate over whether to renew, strengthen or weaken them.

The complicated set of rules determines the size of rent increases for nearly 1 million apartments built before 1973. Supporters say they are critical to ensuring that New York City — a city of 2.2 million apartments — remains affordable to working-class and middle-class residents. Landlords, however, chafe under rules that they say keep rent artificially low and force them to charge more for unregulated apartments and forgo improvements.

Brooklyn landlord Chris Athineos manages some rent-stabilized apartments that go for as little as $500 to $700 a month — units that would go for $1,500 or $2,000 if unregulated. He said the rules are unfair to landlords and tenants who are forced to subsidize the lower rents of regulated units.

“We all pay the same price for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk at a particular market,” Athineos said. “Just because you’ve been going to that market longer doesn’t mean you get to pay less for the bread.”