The rate increases for the city’s million rent-stabilized apartments are less than what landlords have demanded, citing rising costs. But tenants and housing advocates, who are calling for a rent freeze, say the rent hike will worsen the city’s eviction crisis.
This article was originally published on May 6, 2022. Translated by Ana Teresa Solá Rivière. Read the original article in English here.
New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board voted Thursday night to raise rents for the city’s nearly one million rent-stabilized apartments, proposing increases of 2 to 4 percent for leases of a year and from 4 to 6 percent for two-year contracts.
The rates are lower than what the owners have demanded, citing the increased cost of living. However, tenants and advocates are calling for a rent freeze, saying the rent increase will worsen the city’s eviction and affordable housing crisis. A final, binding vote on the plan will be held in June, and New Yorkers will have an opportunity to weigh in on the changes at two public hearings in May.
The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), whose nine members are appointed by the mayor, has set annual rates for the city’s rent-stabilized apartments since 1968, and for decades imposed some type of increase, with increases ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent in the years between its launch and 2015, according to an earlier tally by City Limits.
Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the board took a more tenant-friendly approach, imposing an unprecedented rent freeze for the first time in 2015-2016 and twice more during his tenure. The board imposed more modest increases four other times under the previous administration. Last year, the RGB voted to freeze rents for six months before allowing a 1.5% increase in one-year contracts from April 1. Two-year contracts experienced an increase of 2.5%.
Since taking office, Mayor Eric Adams has appointed three members to fill vacancies on the board, including a landlord attorney, a self-described rent control skeptic and a housing attorney from the Legal Aid Society. The composition of the board is intended to be divided among different interest groups, with two members representing tenants, two owners and five members “appointed to represent the general public”.
The rates the board voted to consider Thursday were a midpoint between what its tenant and landlord members had proposed: The board’s two landlord members called for rent increases of up to 6.5 percent on one-year leases. and 8.5 percent on the two-year leases, while the two tenant representatives proposed increases of no more than 1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
However, neither side appeared to be satisfied with the rates the board agreed to in its preliminary vote on Thursday. In a statement, Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association that represents landlords, said the numbers “have exposed our greatest fear: that the RGB continues to believe that its duty is to operate solely as an affordability program for renters.” .
Strasburg cited “increases from inflation, property taxes, water and heating oil bills, and other operating expenses,” as well as the “millions of dollars in unpaid rent” that have accumulated during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.
“We need to authorize a rent increase that is commensurate with these costs, so that housing providers have the ability to maintain their buildings and make sure the buildings are safe,” said Christina Smyth, one of the members of the RGB representing the owners.
But renters and housing advocates say the 2 percent to 4 percent hikes could have devastating consequences for the estimated two million New Yorkers living in rent-stabilized units.
“The tenants are still struggling to survive. Owners of rent-regulated buildings have made record profits. A lot of people and landlords pretend this isn’t true,” said Sheila Garcia, one of two tenant representatives on the board.
Owners purchased some 777 rent-stabilized rental buildings in 2021, it noted. “In the midst of a pandemic, they were buying properties. Which means they saw an opportunity for a lucrative investment,” he said.
Garcia came to the meeting from the Bronx, where she was surrounded by tenants holding signs asking the board to lower rents instead of raising them.
“I just want to make sure the sentiment in this room is heard,” he said. “People are suggesting that maybe when they get evicted, they can come live with some of the board members who are imposing these raises, because that 2 percent minimum would be devastating to most people in this room.”
Tenant advocates say the increases will worsen the ongoing housing crisis in the city, where residents are still feeling the impact of the pandemic and the local unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country. Housing court cases are piling up again after the end of the eviction moratorium earlier this year, and market-rate apartment rents are on the rise. Nearly 50,000 New Yorkers sleep each night in the city’s homeless shelter system.
In a statement, Mayor Adams said “it was a good thing the board opted for a lower increase” than the nearly 9 percent increase its member owners had proposed.
“But if rents and other costs of living are going to go up with inflation and other economic issues, then so must government support, which is why I’ve been fighting for a more generous housing bond program, a more robust earned income tax credit, and for significant investments in child care,” he said in his statement.
The RGB will hold two public hearings next month to gather input on the proposed rates before a final vote in June. If approved, the new rules will affect leases and will come into force from October 1 to September 30, 2023.
Public hearings will take place as follows:
- On Monday, June 13 at the Jamaica Center for the Performing Arts, in Queens, from 5 pm to 9 pm
- Wednesday, June 15 at the Hostos Community College Main Theater in the Bronx from 4 pm to 9 pm