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.