Rent-regulated apartments can't be found in Albany Count

Albany Times Union, June 11, 1997
ALBANY -- The state spends $12 million a year to administer the rent regulation program, and the rent regulators say there are some 500 regulated apartments in Albany County.

But officials with the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal apparently can't -- or won't -- identify them. Some lawmakers, landlords and tenants are beginning to suspect that the 500 apartment figure is grossly inflated.

Albany city officials say they are unaware of any controlled apartments. Assemblyman Ronald Canestrari, D-Cohoes, said he has heard there are a few in the city, but doesn't know where they are and can't seem to find out. Albany Democratic Sen. Neil Breslin said he has been trying to find a single person in his district who is affected by rent control and hasn't yet found one -- let alone 500.

Dan Potter, president of the Capital District Association of Rental Property Owners, said rent control hasn't been an issue with local landlords for at least 20 years. "If there are five under control, I'd be surprised,'' Potter said.

Maria Markovics of United Tenants of Albany said there may be a few rent-controlled apartments scattered around the inner city but, as for where, "we'd like to know ourselves.'' Markovics said she has heard there are a couple of rent controlled units in the Elouise Apartments at 11 S. Lake Ave.


The owner of Elouise Apartments, Tom Moore, said none of the tenants in his 70-year-old building are protected by rent control. In fact, Moore said, he hasn't had a single rent-controlled unit since he bought the place 15 years ago.

So, where are these 500 controlled apartments that state bureaucrats say exist in Albany County, and why is finding them as difficult as a game of "Where's Waldo?''

Harry Ryttenburg, spokesman for the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, said he is certain there are 500 units, but not more, and can't say where they are because of privacy considerations. When asked, then, to simply identify the location of the rent-controlled units by street or neighborhood, Ryttenburg promised three times in the past week to see what he could do -- but never came up with the information. He did not return telephone calls Monday or Tuesday.

Markovics suspects the state housing division is basing its estimate on the absurd assumption that if an apartment was once rent controlled, it still is -- and that no one who lived in a regulated apartment has died or moved.

Albany, like other cities around the state, got involved in rent control after World War II, when there was a perceived shortage of affordable housing for returning veterans. In 1971, the state essentially began to phase out the program by decontrolling apartments upon vacancy. In other words, when the tenant benefitting from rent control moved or died, the landlord could immediately begin charging whatever the market would bear, rather than what the government would allow.

In New York City, however, rent regulation is largely a different game.

A 1974 state law authorized rent-stabilization. Under that program -- a lease-based program -- there is monitoring, reporting requirements and protections that safeguard tenants for the duration of a lease. So, for residents of roughly one million rent-stabilized apartments in New York City, the possible expiration of the program Sunday night generally matters only if their lease happens to expire at the same time.

Capital Region residents protected by rent control -- if there are any -- are in a much more precarious position, according to Markovics. Since the protection in this area is not lease-based, a landlord could charge market rents the moment the law expires.