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Editorial: NYC rent laws unneeded here

Buffalo is not New York City, and one size does not fit all when it comes to designing laws for New York State.

Is anything more self-evident than those statements?

Someone forgot to tell that to lawmakers in Albany who are trying to expand New York City rent regulations to the whole Empire State.

The city’s rent control and stabilization system is due to expire on June 15. There is a lobbying push for Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, to revise the laws to tilt them further toward tenants, and thereby become less landlord-friendly. That battle is for our downstate friends to fight – and there really are issues there – but some lawmakers are trying to extend the laws with a package of bills covering all of upstate.

One provision would bring us the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, which now provides rent stabilization in municipalities in Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties. It applies to buildings with six or more units, built before 1974, and towns, cities or counties need to opt in for the law to apply. The act is based on New York City’s Rent Stabilization Law.

Another provision on the table for the state is a “good cause eviction” standard which would prohibit eviction for rent increases of more than 1.5 times the local rate of inflation.

One person’s “regulation” is another’s “protection,” and there is a built-in tension between tenants and landlords. But rent stabilization laws that govern some 1 million units in New York City aren’t a logical model for Buffalo to follow.

Demand for real estate in Manhattan and the other four boroughs pushes prices there to skyscraper heights, which forces many would-be New Yorkers to seek shelter in the far reaches of upstate, New Jersey, Connecticut or Pennsylvania.

Rent regulations don’t solve those problems, but they give tenants at least a fighting chance to keep their place of residence in the some 22,000 New York City units that still are subject to rent control.

Buffalo’s a different story. Rents are rising here because of demand. More people want to live in the city’s downtown core, which is what is needed to keep it economically viable. Gentrification is a real concern for many, but Buffalo Niagara can’t make progress without change. Few people want to pay more in rent, taxes, or for any other monthly bill. But bargain rental rates from 20 years ago aren’t coming back, any more than we can expect to buy gasoline for 70 cents a gallon again.

Under the main rent stabilization bill, county governments would have to OK the opt-in. Things could get messy if Erie County approved such a law over the objections of some of its municipalities.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, co-sponsored a rent control bill, citing people across the state who are “struggling to pay their rent.”

Other government officials admitted only to being rent-control curious.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said the city should deliberate on the proposals, but “I wouldn’t say they are clamoring.”

New York City was the launching pad for former gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan and the Rent is Too Damn High Party. Anyone who has even thought of moving to Manhattan knows what he was talking about. But this is Buffalo. There are affordable housing options here, not on every block, but enough that most working people can find a place to live.

Shoehorning New York City regulations into all of upstate doesn’t make sense. What’s next, congestion pricing for downtown Buffalo? New regulations on horse-and-carriage rides through the park? Fuhgeddaboudit.

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