Briefing Book:

A Briefing Book



New York City suffers from an inexorable housing crisis. Since
World War II, through economic boom and bust alike, there has
been an all-too-small supply of apartments. Even during some of
the real estate industry's biggest years, serious housing
problems persisted. Perhaps the most obvious and painful reminder
of the crisis is the fact that thousands of people live on the
streets or in shelters.

Several strategies have been adopted in the effort to stem New
York City's chronic housing shortage. In a city where two-thirds
of the households rent their dwellings, rent regulation is an
important part of that effort.

But the crisis persists despite rent regulation, giving rise to
the question: Is rent regulation part of the problem or part of
the solution? An examination of the housing market today leads to
the following conclusion: Though the system has problems, tenants
are much better off under rent regulation than they would be
otherwise, and the public interest of New York City is served.

This briefing book seeks to fill a long-standing void with little-
discussed information about rent regulation-including its
history, a description of the current system, a look at the
people affected by the system's policies, and a discussion of the
misinformation surrounding this issue. The authors hope the book
will be used as a reference guide and also in support of efforts
to preserve and improve rent regulation in New York.


Many people and organizations helped to bring this briefing book
to fruition. Supporting information for the report was generously
provided by community organizations and government agencies,
including the New York City Rent Guidelines Board; the Office of
Rent Administration, State Division of Housing and Community
Renewal; the Citywide Task Force on Housing Court; and the New
York State Tenant and Neighborhood Coalition. Thanks go to the
Research and Analysis Unit of the New York City Department of
Housing Preservation and Development -- particularly Sheree West
and Barbara Elstein -- for their patient explanation of the
technical aspects of the Housing and Vacancy Survey. Peter
Fronczek and his staff at the U.S. Bureau of the Census were also
helpful. Frank DeGiovanni and Peter Marcuse shared their
knowledge of the HVS and housing policy. John Allen reviewed
Appendix B for historical accuracy.

Funding for this study was provided by the Charles H. Revson
Foundation and the Fund for the City of New York. The summer
internship program of the Community Affairs Department of J.P.
Morgan and Company also played a vital role in providing funding.
The North Star Fund supported the project as well.

The individuals who contributed their time to conceptualizing and
commenting on drafts of the report deserve special thanks. This
project would not have been possible without the thoughtful
criticism of Oda Friedheim of the Lower East Side Local
Enforcement Unit, MFY Legal Services; Jenny Laurie of the
Metropolitan Council on Housing; and Anne Pasmanick of the
Community Training and Resource Center. Editorial consultant Tim
Ledwith helped to shape the study into its final, published form.


The primary source for this report is the 1991 New York City
Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS) Tabulation Package. Conducted by
the U.S. Bureau of the Census, usually triennially, the HVS is
commissioned by the City of New York to determine vacancy rates
and other key housing characteristics. This document also draws
upon other works on rent regulation and related subjects. A
bibliography is included at the end of the report.


Apart from the expected limitations of time and resources, two
other factors affected the final outcome of this report. First,
all of the available data cover only New York City -- despite the
existence of rent regulation in numerous municipalities in the
suburban counties adjacent to New York City. Data on these
suburban communities are largely unavailable. Additionally, some
parts of the analysis would have been more detailed if the public
release of computer files containing the HVS data had not been

Because of this delay, most of the data analysis was done using
the hard-copy tables published by the Census Bureau prior to the
release of the computerized data. However, a handful of tables,
where noted, were created later using the computerized data with
the assistance of Eric Allison and Randall Mason of Columbia

About CTRC

The Community Training and Resource Center provides technical
assistance to local, community-based organizations concerned with
tenant rights and housing preservation. Working primarily in low-
and moderate-income neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New
York City, CTRC trains tenant organizers and tenant leaders in
housing law, rights and remedies as well as leadership
development. CTRC has undertaken research projects on various
issues of concern to these communities.

About the Author

September Jarrett is a Master's candidate in the Graduate School
of Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Social
Research, and a Research Assistant at the Community Development
Research Center at the New School. She previously worked for the
Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco.