NYC
01/24/2012 03:28 pm ET

New York Rent Control: US Supreme Court Might Hear Landlord's Case In Harmon V. Kimmel (VIDEO)

Insanely jealous of the West Village man paying $331.76 a month for a beautiful four-bedroom apartment? You might find some solace in a new lawsuit. From Reason:

The court case Harmon v. Kimmel may finally bring an end to rent control laws that have been on the books in one form or another since the 1940s. James D. Harmon owns a building in Manhattan where the tenants are paying rents that are about 60 percent below the going market rate. After losing various legal battles at lower levels, Harmon has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear his argument that rent stabilization is a form of takings that should be prohibited under the Constitution. The Court has not yet announced whether it will hear the case but has asked the state and city of New York to respond to Harmon's argument.

Were the United States Supreme Court to hear the case, the debate would likely focus on interpreting the "takings clause" of the 5th amendment, which reads, "No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

About 50 percent of New York's rental market is affected by rent control or rent stabilization. There are about one million affordable housing units in the city.

Powerful advocacy groups have amassed on both sides of the rent regulation debate in New York, making for some large legislative showdowns in Albany. In May, the New York legislature voted to strengthen rent regulation.

Rent regulation supporters argue rents need to be controlled so people aren't forced from their homes. Opponents suggest rent regulation does not supply housing to low-income people and actually lowers the quality of housing. Josh Barro writes, "There is pent-up demand for new housing in New York City. Developers would be happy to come in, add supply, and drive rents down and vacancy up, benefitting consumers. All that is needed is for the government to get out of the way."

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