First Time Ever: NYC’s Rent Guidelines Board Votes For Stabilized Rent Freeze

30 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

City board approves rent freeze for first time in NYC history, barring hikes on any of the city’s 1 million rent-stabilized apartments.

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board took an unprecedented step Monday, voting for the first time to freeze rents on one-year leases for tenants in rent-stabilized apartments. After failing in their efforts to overhaul rent laws in Albany, New York City tenants in more than one million rent-regulated apartments got some good news: a one-year holiday from rent increases.“This was the right call,” Mayor de Blasio said Monday night. “We know tenants have been forced to make painful choices that pitted ever-rising rent against necessities like groceries, child care and medical bills.

But Patrick Siconolfi, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a group that represents owners who control about 350,000 rent stabilized units, said in a statement his organization would prefer that needy tenants be given rent subsidies. Giron was talking about the last-minute legislative deal over rent regulation and affordable housing tax breaks that tenant advocates thought were pro-developer. “But now the tenant movement is invigorated right now. A report that the board uses to decide on how much landlords who own rent-stabilized units can charge tenants found that expenses only rose.5% because of falling fuel costs. The board, one of the few tools the mayor has to directly influence the cost of housing in the city, also voted to increase rents on two-year leases by 2 percent, a historic low.

This is the difference between being able to afford groceries and not,” said Esteban Giron, 36, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “For me, it’s a triumph,” said Carmen Pinero, 73, of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. She said it would be harder now for her landlord “to raise the rent and get us out.” “It is despicable that politics prevailed over common sense. Aaron Sirulnick, chair of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, said the freeze will ultimately hurt tenants, making it more hard for owners to invest in and maintain their buildings. “This is myopic, it’s biased, it’s selective listening”, Ms. And, of course, major capital improvements, individual apartment improvements, preferential rents and vacancy bonuses mean that the increase in rent for a specific apartment could be quite different from what RGB approved for the system as a whole.

But his housing plan aims at building new affordable housing while staving off the loss of existing affordable units — either through rent increases or the removal of stabilized apartments from regulation. The mayor asked for a rent freeze last year, when a majority of the board were de Blasio appointees, along with some holdovers from the Bloomberg administration. The new guidelines affect renters with new leases and lease renewals as of October 1. “I do volunteer work for Coalition for the Homeless and I see more and more people struggling”, she said. Owner representative Sara Williams Willard voted against the proposal, saying, “This is myopic, it’s biased.” The other owner representative also voted against it. But the board, which consists of two tenant representatives, two landlord representatives and five members of the public with experience in housing, finance or economics, resisted the mayor’s call.

Chairwoman Rachel Godsil said the board had considered data that showed building owners were doing OK, but tenants were struggling to keep their rents affordable. At the meeting, about 900 tenants filled most of the Great Hall at Cooper Union, chanting “rent rollback, rent rollback.” Tenant leaders had pressed the state Legislature to end “vacancy decontrol,” which deregulates empty apartments once their rent exceeds a certain threshold.

Instead, the board passed the lowest increases since it was established in 1969 — up to 1 percent for one-year leases and 2.75 percent for two-year leases. This year, the board is looking at research by its staff showing that landlords’ operating income, after expenses, has grown for nine consecutive years, most recently by 3.4 percent. For rent-stabilized tenants, the median gross rent-to-income ratio, meaning the percentage of a household’s income that goes to pay for rent and utilities, rose slightly to 36.4 percent last year. The numbers justify a rollback, certainly a freeze.” One renter, Kimberly Morales, 20, a college student, said she may have to quit school to help her mother pay the $1,154 monthly rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which also houses three younger brothers. Cuomo, a Democrat, and Albany legislators to strengthen the state law that governs rent-regulated apartments in the renters’ favor when it was renewed last week for four years.

If the city wanted to help tenants, some argued, it could compensate landlords by lowering expenses it controls such as real estate taxes and water and sewer charges.

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