Rich guys are always winning in politics—not just when they run for office, but also when they want laws passed and bills defeated. In the rare instances where they do not win, they are shocked that they did not. And it is very funny when this happens.
Case in point: This New York Times article about the dismay of the “titans of real estate” in New York, after the announcement of a deal between New York Democrats on a bill protecting tenants. They are so very sad:
“I’m in shock. I think many of us in my industry are in shock,” said James R. Wacht, president of the firm Lee & Associates and a board member of Real Estate Board of New York, the industry’s leading trade group. “It’s a lot worse than we anticipated.”
Boo hoo, bitch! Go back to the Upper East Side and have a Negroni about it.
Nationally, the real estate lobby is second only to the Chamber of Commerce in lobbying spending. The National Association of Realtors spent $72 million on lobbying last year. I mean, Jesus, what the fuck? Stop doing that! Your tenants need you to kill their bedbugs and fix their drafty windows!
One source of the New York real estate world’s shock: Their usual ally Gov. Andrew Cuomo left them hanging. Cuomo told developers who called him about the bill that “they should call their legislators if they want to do something about it,” according to the Times’ source; when the developers raised the threat of legal action, “Mr. Cuomo had no reaction to that.”
But now, having gotten used to being able to simply call up the governor and get their way, New York’s real estate barons are floored:
“We thought the governor would help moderate some of the more ridiculous proposals,” said Jay Martin, the executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a trade association representing about 4,000 building owners. “That did not happen.”
“It seems to be that the democratic socialist wing of the Democratic Party is in full control of the state government,” Mr. Martin added. “I think this is the official declaration of that.”
Tenants would “largely see an end to big rent increases” under the new bill, according to the Times, though some key provisions didn’t make it, like the provision that would have required landlords of non-rent regulated properties to have “good cause” to evict tenants.
It would prevent landlords from being able to raise rents in rent-stabilized apartments after tenants move out, and landlords will no longer be able to raise rents by up to 6 percent if they make improvements on a building that benefit all tenants. Of course, the Times reports, “landlords warned that removing incentives for them to renovate buildings and lowering their rental income would lead to worse housing conditions for many New Yorkers.”
If landlords really did retaliate against this bill by refusing to do necessary repairs or renovations, it’s not really an argument for letting landlords raise rents as much as they want just so tenants get a livable space; it’s an argument for upending the system of privately-owned housing. Don’t want your ability to access hot water to be determined by a shitty landlord who doesn’t want to spend the money? Maybe, then, you’d prefer a strong program of social housing, where your landlords are your democratically elected representatives instead of whichever rich guy decided to buy your building, or Jared Kushner.
Until we get that, though, I will settle for stories of crying developers whining to the governor any day.