The California Apartment Association has filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that challenges New York’s rent control and eviction laws as infringements of property owners’ constitutional rights.
This case carries significant national implications, as it could shape future property rights legislation that affects landlords not only in New York but also across the United States, including California.
The case, Community Housing Improvement Program v. City of New York, was filed after 2019 amendments to the New York law that made it much more stringent. The lawsuit, however, extends its claims beyond the 2019 amendments. It argues that the totality of restrictions imposed by the New York rent control and eviction regulation scheme unfairly place the burden of providing affordable housing on the shoulders of a select group of rental property owners, when the burdens of “rectifying a societal problem” should be spread more broadly among taxpayers. That, the New York plaintiffs say, is a violation of the Takings Clause.
So far, the lower courts have not agreed – but that wasn’t unexpected. It was always expected that this case would have to make its way to the high court to have a chance of truly changing the status quo. The case is now being presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, if it chooses to do so, can set a new nationwide precedent for how these questions should be evaluated. The court only takes a handful of the cases presented to it each year, though.
The brief submitted by CAA, in partnership with the San Francisco Apartment Association, urges the court to accept the case given that the issues presented in it are not just relevant to New York – the brief highlights the explosion of ever stricter rent control and eviction regulations throughout California in the past decade.
CAA’s brief argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s intervention is needed for another reason: to stop the “boiling the frog” problem, which in this context refers to a pattern of lower courts relying on a history of previous regulation as a basis to find that new regulations do not infringe on property rights because property owners should have expected further regulation. CAA’s brief argues that “there is no obvious limit to this principle. It merely counsels governments to deprive property owners of their property rights in slow motion, rather than all at once—to turn up the heat on the frog one degree at a time.”
The joint CAA and SFAA amicus brief is in good company. Thirteen other groups and individuals, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Cato Institute, the National Apartment Association, and a law professor, have also submitted briefs urging the court to accept the case.
While the court could decide whether to accept the case as early as late July, it may also opt to delay the decision.