The New York City Rent Guidelines Board considers increases of 2% to 4% for stabilized units. Now what?

Rate increases for the city’s 1 million regulated apartments are lower than what landlords have pushed for, citing rising costs. But tenants and housing advocates who have called for rent freezes say the increase will worsen the city’s eviction crisis.

Adi Talwar

A Bronx residential building with rent stabilized apartments on the corner of East Mosholu Parkway North and Kossuth Avenue.

New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board voted Thursday night to raise rents for the city’s roughly 1 million stabilized apartments, proposing increases of 2 to 4 percent for one-year leases and increases of 4 to 6 percent for two-year leases.

Rates are lower than what property owners have lobbied for, citing rising costs. But tenants and advocates who have called for rent freezes say the increase will worsen the city’s affordable housing and eviction crisis. A final binding vote on the plan will take place in June, and New Yorkers will have a chance 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-regulated apartments since 1968, and for decades imposed some type of increase, with increases ranging from 1 at 10 percent over the years between its launch and 2015, an earlier analysis of City Limits found.

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 term; the panel 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 percent increase in one-year leases from April 1. Two-year leases saw a 2.5 percent increase.

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 Legal Aid housing attorney. Society. The composition of the board is designed to be divided among different interest groups, with two members representing tenants, two representing landlords, and five members “appointed to represent the general public.”

The rates the board voted to consider Thursday were a happy medium between what tenant members and landlords had proposed: The board’s two landlord members called for rent increases of up to 6.5 percent on leases for one year and 8.5 percent on two-year leases. , while its two tenant representatives proposed increases of no more than 1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

But neither side seemed happy with the rates the board arrived at with 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 RGB continues to believe it is its duty to operate solely as an affordability program for renters. ”.

He cited “increases in inflation, property taxes, water and heating oil bills, and other operating costs,” as well as the “millions of dollars in unpaid rent” that have accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to authorize a rent increase that keeps up with these costs, so housing providers can maintain their buildings and make sure they are safe,” said Christina Smyth, one of the RGB members representing landlords.

But renters and housing advocates say the 2 to 4 percent increases could have devastating consequences for the city’s roughly two million New Yorkers who live in stabilized units.

“The tenants are still struggling to survive. Owners of rent-regulated buildings have been making record profits. Many members of the public and landlords pretend this is not true,” said Sheila Garcia, one of two tenant representatives on the board.

Landlords bought some 777 rent-stabilized buildings in 2021, it said. “At the height of a pandemic, they were buying properties. That means they saw this as a lucrative investment,” he said.

Garcia approached the meeting from the Bronx, where she was surrounded by tenants holding signs urging the board to lower rents instead of raising them.

“I just want to make sure the sentiment is heard in this room,” 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 city’s ongoing housing crisis, where residents are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic and the local unemployment rate is among the highest in the country. Housing court cases are rising again after the end of the eviction moratorium earlier in the year, and market-rate apartment rents are rising. Nearly 50,000 New Yorkers sleep in the city’s homeless shelter system each night.

In a statement, Mayor Adams said “it was a good thing the board moved lower” than the nearly 9 percent increase that member owners had proposed.

“But if rents and other costs of living are going to rise with inflation and other economic problems, so must government support, which is why I’ve been fighting for a more generous housing voucher program, a tax on the stronger labor income. significant credit and investments in child care,” the statement from him said.

The RGB will hold two public hearings next month to receive comments on the proposed rates before a final vote in June; If approved, the new rules would affect leases in effect from October 1 to September 30, 2023.

Public hearings will be held as follows:

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