The Week in Review

New York Times, June 22, 1997
Rent: Not the Musical

Rent regulation can seem one of those arcane and faintly archaic things that New Yorkers enjoy obsessing over, but for more than a million tenants, living in a rent-regulated apartment doesn't just prove mastery at the art of getting a good deal; it enables people with modest incomes to stay in the city.

Rent regulation, though, also defines lifelong relationships with landlords, many of whom would like nothing better than to end the rules enacted after a World War II housing shortage. They blame the rules for making the city's housing crisis chronic and driving landlords out of business.

Last week the state Legislature let the rent law expire before leaders finally agreed on an extension, frightening tenants with the prospect of landlords not only freely raising rents but refusing to renew leases.

Not to worry. Generally, the new law protects all but the wealthiest renters -- those earning more than $175,000 a year, or already paying more than $2,000 a month, a rent more likely to be attached to a great deal on Central Park West than to a garden apartment in Queens.