Public Relations: New rent regs pose communication challenge - by Harry Zlokower

September 17, 2019 - Front Section

Sweeping changes in rent control laws, resulting in benefits to tenants, mobilized the real estate industry earlier this summer into a forceful campaign of lobbying, paid advertising, and organized demonstrations. Using reasoned arguments and projections, the industry attempted to thwart the legislation by demonstrating to politicians and public the new law’s negative impact on income and jobs for workers and small-building owners, future housing development and improvements and the real estate industry as a whole. Those efforts fell short and a Democratic-controlled legislature, moved by overwhelming public sentiment and grievances against perceived owner abuses under current rent laws, put the new legislation into effect.

By mid-summer, owners, led by the Rent Stabilization Association and the Community Housing Improvement Program, filed suit in Federal Court claiming the law unconstitutional in violation of the 14th Amendment’s due process clause and the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. The lawsuit argued relief from the new rent laws will lead to more development of rental properties, better housing, a less constrained market and fairer and more efficient means of providing housing to those most in need.

But to make and win its case, the industry, owners, and brokers must win back the hearts and minds of New York leaders and residents in the critically important court of public opinion. In addition to its able job of informing membership through conferences and other direct communications, the real estate industry should consider a multi-channel tactical approach including earned, digital and social media, speaking engagements and advertising that will 1) guide and enable all owners to do the best for tenants and 2) to communicate the industry’s good work and economically healthy projects , using expert commentary, transactions and case histories to show what it costs to provide good, safe, comfortable housing to tenants at fair rents. 

Harry Zlokower is the founder of Zlokower Co., New York, N.Y.

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Mo 9/29/19 10:09 AM

I think they’re missing a key point of the 14th Amendment by not exploring the Equal Protection Clause part of that law, when the large number of people already benefiting from their stabilized rents, have both a huge monetary advantage and clear legal one over all those looking for a new apartment. No matter how you look at it, there is absolutely no equal protection of the laws to anyone who needs an apartment, let alone an affordable one, when compared to someone who already has one. The system has created at least two classes of people yet done nothing substantial to make affording an apartment easier for those who actually need help doing so. With Oregon’s and California’s system, all rents revert to market upon vacancy, and continue only somewhat controlled with the new tenant. This system at least has elements of equal protection without being a permanent taking of private property. Plus, through unintended consequences, removing of the Vacancy Increase elements and destabilization path in NY is a likely time bomb brewing for an ultimate slew of Stabilized Apartment Building Hardship Increases, which will hurt all stabilized tenants in any of the many under-performing buildings, unless of course the Rent Guidelines Board recognizes this potential and starts having annual increases substantially higher than they’ve been in the past, which just hurts these stabilized tenants even more rapidly. For the record, none of this comment is meant to be taken as legal advice, I am not a lawyer, it’s meant only to instill additional legal concepts thought. It’s my layman’s opinion of what I think will ultimately destroy New York’s Rent Control laws, the seedy class discrimination elements that come with them.

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