Rents Would Go Thru Roof
Ending regulation would cost tenants, sez landlords' study

By MICHAEL FINNEGAN
Daily News Albany Bureau

ALBANY
New York City tenants would suffer sharply higher rents if the state scraps rent regulations, as now threatened in the Legislature, a new study by a major landlord group shows.

Tenants in rent-stabilized apartments on Manhattan's upper West Side would get whacked the hardest with average monthly rent hikes of a staggering 51%, the study projected.

Residents of many other neighborhoods would face average increases of $100 or more, including hikes of about 30% more per month on the upper East Side and Greenwich Village, and nearly 18% more in midtown, according to the analysis by the Rent Stabilization Association, a group of 25,000 city landlords.

Tenants outside Manhattan would share the pain.

In Jamaica, Queens, for example, the average monthly rent would jump nearly 20%, from $564 to $677, the study projected.

The rents would soar to stratospheric heights within five years of threatened state action to end nearly a half century of state laws that now limit rent hikes for 2 million New York City-area tenants.

A deadline looms June 15 the day State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) has vowed to let rent protections for most tenants expire unless Gov. Pataki and other state leaders compromise on a two-year phaseout.

In all, the landlord study shows, deregulation would cost tenants a collective $1.2 billion in annual rent hikes. That, said anxious residents across the five boroughs, would drive them out of the city.

"I would lose my apartment," said Edward Allen, a 49-year-old salesman who pays $710 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Jamaica.

"Most people are one paycheck away from poverty," added Allen. "If I get sick, I could lose my apartment. I can't afford to save anything."

Despite the findings, landlords said the only ones who should be concerned are well-off tenants who have taken advantage of the state laws and snagged apartments in top Manhattan neighborhoods at below-market rents.

The average increase citywide would be 14.6% and some neighborhoods would not face rent hikes the study found.

"If you can't afford to live in Manhattan, you should be able to find an affordable apartment in the Bronx or Brooklyn," said Jack Freund, executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association.

Tenant leaders, however, said the findings represent their strongest ammunition yet in the war to renew the state's rent laws.

"You can be sure the numbers are lowballed," Michael McKee of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition said of the landlord group projections. "If this is what they're putting out there, the reality has got to be worse."

The projections emerged from a computer study by the American Economics Group, a Washington consulting firm hired by the landlord group to forecast the effects of rent deregulation.

Study director Charles de Seve, a former Assembly tax analyst, said he calculated the likely increases by creating a computer model that analyzed current rents, household income and scores of other factors in neighborhoods across the city.

Despite the sky-high increases in some neighborhoods, the study concluded that "fears of impossibly high rents and massive dislocations of families" after deregulation "are unwarranted."

The report also predicted that a change to free-market rent would generate $5.3 billion in economic activity as landlords repair neglected units. That work would produce $563 million a year in new tax revenue. The switch also would help create 66,528 jobs, the study found.

Still, de Seve conceded that some tenants could be forced to move to avoid the soaring rents that would hit some neighborhoods after deregulation.

Bruno spokesman John McArdle said, "There's no justification . . . for maintaining the status quo." Pataki's office declined to comment, while Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said the results showed deregulation would drive out the middle class.

William Cotter, a writer who rents a studio at West End Ave. and 69th St. for $620 a month, said the average $384-a-month hike projected for his area would force him out of the apartment he has called home for two decades. "My friends are here . . . my life is here," he said. "I would not be a very happy camper."

Original Story Date: 040497
Original Story Section: City Central