RENT REGULATION IN NEW YORK CITY: A Briefing Book =============================================================== INTRODUCTION 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. Acknowledgments 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. Sources 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. Limitations 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 delayed. 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 University. 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.