unaffordable housing

New York Landlords Strike Out at the Supreme Court, Again

Photo: Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Pacific Press/Alamy Live News

The Supreme Court of the United State has refused to hear a challenge to New York’s rent-stabilization laws, spurning landlords who hoped to overturn the system that limits rent increases on nearly 1 million apartments. The decision marks the most recent of many defeats for the landlords, led by the Community Housing Improvement Program and the Rent Stabilization Association. In October, the Supreme Court rejected two related challenges brought by the group, which followed an earlier decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the rent laws.

The most recent challenge focused on rent-stabilized tenants’ right to a lease renewal. While challenges to rent laws have consistently been denied in the past — they fall under the ability of the government to regulate land use — landlord groups believed that the 2019 rent laws, which took away vacancy bonuses and decontrol, might provide the basis for a successful legal battle, especially with a conservative court. And while the court declined to take up their case, Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that they may be open to future challenges, writing that if specific New York City regulations prevented landlords from evicting tenants for particular reasons, the court should “address this important question.”

Still, housing advocates celebrated what seems, to many, to be a definitive end to the challenge. “Today the United States Supreme Court has confirmed what we’ve known all along: rent stabilization is here to stay,” Cea Weaver, the campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All, wrote in a statement. For decades, New York’s rent-stabilization system has kept hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in their homes, even as market pressures increase.

The case started nearly four years ago, in July 2019, when landlords sued the city and state, claiming the laws violated the Constitution’s “takings clause” by forcing them to cap prices and limiting their ability to evict tenants. But CHIP, for its part, appears undaunted by the most recent defeat. Executive director Jay Martin told Gothamist that this won’t be the last time landlords try to overturn rent laws — citing two similar cases pending in federal appeals court: “We’re expecting there will be other challenges.”

New York Landlords Strike Out at the Supreme Court, Again