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Retailers Push For Their Own Rent Control In New York

A stretch of the retail corridor along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan

The hits may just keep on coming for New York landlords. 

Mere weeks after the state legislature passed a raft of reforms meant to strengthen rent controls for apartment tenants, protesters rallied in support of New York City Council legislation that would add similar protections for retail tenants, Real Estate Weekly reports.

The bill, titled the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, has existed in some form since 1986 but has never come up for an official vote, according to Curbed New York. Among its provisions is the option for a retail tenant to automatically receive a 10-year renewal option at the end of its lease provided it meets certain conditions, REW reports. In the bill's current form, landlords and tenants who fail to agree to a rent increase may be subject to arbitration.

In October, Council Speaker Corey Johnson pushed for renewed debate on the SBJSA, which has not occurred since his predecessor, Christine Quinn, declined to bring it to a vote back in 2009, Curbed reports. The bill would have to pass through the council's Small Businesses Committee, chaired by MP Realty Group President Mark Gjonaj. 

Gjonaj attended the rally on July 3 to show support for small businesses in general, but his office told Bisnow that he has not taken a public stance on the bill. At the event, council member Bill Perkins called rent hikes "the biggest killer of small businesses in New York City," REW reports.

Leading the opposition to the SBJSA is a coalition of interest groups, including the Real Estate Board of New York, that believes rising taxes and wages exert just as much pressure as rents on retailers and affect landlords in similar ways. Former REBNY President John Banks — who officially retired July 1 — said the bill "ignores market conditions and would hurt the economy," in comments to REW.

Landlords are still sifting through the "devastating" multifamily rent regulations passed in June, and restrictions on other asset classes would likely be met with similar levels of consternation. Though retail rents in many corridors of New York remain among the highest in the country, they have been in decline for years following a feverish peak in 2015.

CORRECTION, JULY 10, 12:45 P.M. ET: A previous version of this article misstated Gjonaj and Johnson's stance on the SBJSA. This article has been updated.