On the eve of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board’s first meeting of 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio filled some of its vacant seats by appointing public, owner, and tenant-advocate members. These appointments have caught much press attention lately on the heels of de Blasio’s rent-freeze campaign rhetoric. His appointments to the RGB offer a glimpse into whether a rent freeze will, in fact, happen.

As the public and private debates continue, CHPC has dug into its archives to find primary documents cataloging the development of rent regulation in New York City. The archives contain a great deal of correspondence, draft proposals, and minutes of meetings discussing the pros and cons of the policy, and how best to regulate it.

To little surprise, our materials show that consensus was rare. Even within CHPC’s Rent Regulation and Executive Committees we find stark differences in opinion and strongly worded letters expressing disagreement.

In 1977, the three-year-old Emergency Tenant Protection Act, which protected the rent regulation of vacant apartments, was set to expire. CHPC came out in strong opposition to extending that law, saying “such a step would be a complete ‘cop out’—a refusal by the state government to confront and change the current program, which is clearly hurting both tenants and landlords.” Instead, the CHPC Rent Regulation Committee released to the full Board a six-point plan entitled, “A New Approach to Rent Regulation.”

The proposal called for terminating the statewide Rent Control Law and creating a new state-administered system to mirror the Rent Stabilization Code. It called specifically for the following:

  1. A single system of rent regulation
  2. Rent/income ratio limitation (either at 25% or 33%)
  3. State administration of rent regulation, with the option for municipalities to opt in
  4. Real property tax exemption for owners of buildings with rent-controlled units
  5. Vacancy deregulation
  6. Code enforcement, though allowing for increased rents in buildings with code violations, to issue a binding agreement by the landlord to make improvements

In conclusion, the proposal advocated encouraging co-op and condominium ownership as a means of making property ownership attainable. This proposal called for a building to convert to co-op or condo if as few as 35% of the tenants agreed to purchase their units within six months.

You can read the full document here for much greater detail on each reform.