State lawmakers are looking to make the housing market worse

Not satisfied with all the destruction that rent regulation has rained on the city’s housing market, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie now wants to expand it statewide.

This may just be a bluff, a threat that will make it easier to pass his real agenda — namely, tightening the city’s rent laws in order to please ideologues and activists.

Lawmakers will be “laser-focused on rent regulations,” vows Heastie, since the city’s regulations expire in June. And he, along with Gov. Cuomo, are intent on making the regs hit harder.

Sure, below-market rent sounds great. But it’s no coincidence that the city has had a rent-regulation system in effect since before World War II — and an affordable-housing “crisis” for that long, as well.

Consider: Lower-than-market rates by definition mean more demand than supply — i.e., a shortage: Tenants will always want more rent-regulated units than are available. And those who have them will often hang on to them after their needs change.

As the Manhattan Institute’s Howard Husock noted in Wednesday’s Post, expanding rent regs upstate, where the problem is too little demand, not too little housing, makes no sense. Indeed, caps would only discourage new housing development.

Here in the city, the mere prospect of toughened rent regs looks to have already put a dent in residential rental-building sales. A new report by B6 Real Estate Advisors cites a fall in the number of such deals of nearly half this year versus last year. Sales values fell 43 percent.

Rent regs, Citizens Budget Commission research shows, lead to “less well-maintained” housing, as building owners can’t bring in enough income from tenants to fund fixes. Nor do the regs benefit just low-income tenants: In 2017, high earners held nearly 100,000 rent-stabilized units in the city.

“Reforms” that Heastie, Cuomo & Co. mean to pass “would exacerbate many of rent regulation’s flaws and will not make a meaningful impact on the affordability of rental housing,” the CBC wrote. Rather, they’ll “further benefit upper-income renters without providing relief to the low-income households most likely to be rent burdened.”

Some ideas, like limiting landlords’ ability to pass costs of improvements on to tenants, as Cuomo wants, may even “aggravate” the physical condition of regulated buildings, the CBC warns.

Indeed, a survey out Tuesday from the Community Housing Improvement Program showed that, without pass-alongs, two out of three building owners would make fewer upgrades and 53 would use inferior materials. More than a quarter would seriously think about selling their property.

Another bad idea in play: stop wealthy tenants’ high-priced units from being deregulated via “vacancy decontrol.” That’s great for the wealthy tenants — but does nothing for low-income renters.

If the politicians really wanted to do right, they’d level the playing field between the city and the rest of the state by getting rid of all the rent laws.

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