A recent article in the New York Times, “Gentrifying Into the Shelters” examines how rapidly increasing housing prices in Bed-Stuy have pushed working class families out of their homes and out of the neighborhood. The link between gentrification and displacement is indisputable. But there are some questions the article doesn’t answer (or ask): Bed-Stuy has a relatively low rate of rent-regulated housing (34% vs. 44% in Brooklyn overall.) Without rent regulation, tenants have no protection at the end of their lease: there are no limits on rent increases, and no right to a lease renewal (even if you can afford the new rent.)
Does rent regulation lessen the pressure of gentrification? It stands to reason. Rent regulation means your rent increases are limited by law and you can’t just be kicked out of your home at the end of your lease. When these types of protections are strong and enforced properly, long-term lower-income tenants can’t be pushed aside in favor of newer tenants paying higher rents. In Flatbush, where 75% (!) of all rental housing is rent regulated, this is a key protection. But of course, “strong” and “enforced” are the key terms – we need REAL limits on rent increases (including MCI’s) and REAL consequences for landlords who break the laws. Bed-Stuy is a lesson we must learn fast – NYC’s rent laws are set to expire in 2015!