Rent-Stabilized Apartments Get Rent Freeze for First Time in City’s History

30 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A frozen solid on rent regulations.

For the first time ever, the mayorally appointed Rent Guidelines Board Monday night voted to freeze regulated rents , a move the panel deemed justified by dropping fuel costs. “This is a historic moment,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “A rent freeze will have a very tangible and fundamental impact on the lives of New Yorkers.” “It is despicable that politics prevailed over common sense.

The board that regulates rents for more than one million rent-stabilized apartments in New York City voted on Monday night for a freeze on one-year leases, an unprecedented move in its 46-year history. There is no basis for a rent freeze,” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 owners. “Landlords will not have the revenue to pay for the de Blasio-imposed 13 percent property-tax increase and 3 percent water-rate increase that both take effect this week.” Tenant activists have been licking their wounds since last week, when state legislators and Gov. 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.

De Blasio previous year publicly called on the board – which then had some holdovers appointed by ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg – to freeze rents, but it ended up passing a 1% increase. The downside is that regulated rents will stay at an average of about $1,200 a month citywide — at once too much for many tenants to pay and too little for some landlords to keep buildings in good repair. 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. It is empowered to act independently of the mayor — a mandate Strasberg claims it didn’t carry out, calling him its “puppet master.” “We looked at the information and we did the best that we can based on the data,” Epstein said. “We needed enough votes to get something passed, and that’s what we could get passed today. 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.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, praised the decision: “We know tenants have been forced to make painful choices that pitted ever-rising rent against necessities like groceries, child care and medical bills. 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. 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. Such insight escapes Controller Scott Stringer, who said Albany “failed miserably,” or City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who warned of “potentially putting countless families on the streets.” As the details have emerged, the bill’s strengthened tenant protections have become clearer. 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. To see the new rent law’s complex provisions in action, let’s compare two regulated tenants, both paying close to the $2,100 a month their landlord is permitted to charge.

Our costs have gone up and we feel it’s hypocritical,” he said, adding his aging buildings often need repairs. “How can I do that with a zero?” Michael McKee, head of Tenants PAC, branded the decision only a “partial victory” because of the 2% hike for twoyear leases. “A rent freeze is zero and zero,” he said. 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. 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 significantly strengthen the state rent law that governs rent regulated apartments in the renters’ favor when it was renewed last week for four years. Morales said the landlord has been looking for ways to raise the rent. “I’ve been fighting for this apartment with my mother since I was 14 years old,” she said at the same hearing. 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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