Rent Control Laws Are Unfair to the Young

New York Times, June 18, 1997
To the Editor:

While thousands of New Yorkers celebrate the continuation of the city's rent laws, I can't help but cringe with frustration (front page, June 16).

I'm a 27-year-old journalist working at an $18,000-a-year editorial job. My fiancÚ -- who's not making much more -- and I are paying $1,300 a month for a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side near Columbia University.

I've lived in the area for six years in six different apartments and have never benefited from rent control. In fact, it has hurt me: two years ago a roommate and I lived in a $1,200-a-month, two-bedroom apartment. An older woman across the hall from us, who had been there "since the war," was paying $800 less than we were for the same space.

If all tenants had paid equal rents, our landlord might have been able to charge us a few hundred dollars less. The system is unfair to the young and struggling.

New York, June 16, 1997

New York Feudalism

To the Editor:

Here's one conclusion that can be drawn from the decision to continue New York's rent regulations largely unchanged (front page, June 16): Landlords and tenants will continue to find their relationship involuntary -- landlords by statute unable to change tenants, tenants unable to move without taking an economic hit.

It is impossible to overstate how wasteful and demoralizing this feudalistic ethos is to the micro-communities formed by each rental building.

New York, June 16, 1997

Struggling on $60,000

To the Editor:

Thank goodness that the major players in the rent control debate were not swayed by your June 11 editorial before they reached a compromise on Sunday. You say that a "reasonable target" for decontrol would include households paying more than $800 a month in rent or earning more than $60,000 a year.

A $60,000 household income -- which may be comfortable elsewhere in the United States -- cannot be considered affluent in Manhattan, given our cost of living and excessive taxes.

Also, a scan of your classified advertisements reveals few Manhattan apartments, regulated or not, available for less than $800. Examples: "rent stab studio, $895," "prwr 1br, $1,600."

New York, June 16, 1997

Boston's Quiet Exodus

To the Editor:

Contrary to Henry O. Pollakowski ("Life After Rent Control: A Case Study," Op-Ed, June 14), in Cambridge, Mass., we are not witnessing a boom in new construction or a wave of building renovations. Instead, landlords have been able to enrich themselves by getting higher rents for unrenovated apartments going at a premium in a hot real estate market.

Since 1994, when rent control was abolished, there has been a dramatic surge in rents throughout the Boston area. According to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, the state's highest average rents are charged in Brookline, Cambridge and parts of Boston, the communities where rent controls were lifted. Vacancy rates are low; in Brookline and Cambridge, they hover around 1 percent.

In Cambridge, the effects of the loss were evident as tenant protections against large rent increases and arbitrary evictions were eliminated. In the first months after rent control ended, some buildings were virtually emptied out. Many tenants have been forced to move, often out of the city. Because much of this displacement has occurred without court proceedings or public confrontation, we have been experiencing a quiet exodus.

Co-chmn., Cambridge Tenants Union
Cambridge, Mass., June 15, 1997