New York City Rent Guidelines Board Votes to Freeze Rents

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.

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. 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.”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, childcare and medical bills. This is the difference between being able to afford groceries and not,” said Esteban Giron, 36, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “If it went up at all, right now we’re budgeted so tightly that we don’t have $5 or $10 lying around,” said Giron, who is unemployed. “It would have been really difficult.” “It is despicable that politics prevailed over common sense.

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. There is no basis for a rent freeze,” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association. “Ironically, de Blasio’s mantra has been the preservation of affordable housing, but his support of a rent freeze, coupled with last year’s 1% rent increase, will have the opposite effect, spurring the deterioration and eventual eradication of affordable housing.” The move came after the board — made up of two tenant reps, two landlord reps and five members representing the public —was filled entirely with de Blasio appointees.

They blamed rising city property taxes and water bills for much of the pressure on building owners. “Today’s decision places unrealistic expectations on building owners to subsidize affordable housing on their backs, despite the city’s lack of maintaining control on costs on owners at every turn,” said Patrick Siconolfi, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents many landlords of smaller buildings. Today’s decision means relief.” The vote on Monday was the first decision on rent levels by a nine-member board appointed in its entirety by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Owner representative Sara Williams Willard voted against the proposal, saying, “This is myopic, it’s biased.” The other owner representative also voted against it. 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. 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. But the board, which at the time still had some appointees of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ended up opting for a 1% hike. “For me, it’s a triumph,” said Carmen Pinero, 73, who said she’s had trouble for years with her Prospect Heights landlord. “They’re trying to raise the rent and get us out … (Now) it will be easier.” “It’s a slap in the face for small property owners.

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 rent law that governs rent regulated apartments in the renters’ favor when it was renewed last week for four years. Some tenant advocates say that the provision means that the only way to get a sizable rise in the threshold for vacancy deregulation is to increase rents.

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