In a historic decision made last night, the Rent Guidelines Board voted 7-2 last night to freeze rents for the first time on one-year leases for New York City’s more than one million rent-stabilized apartments. The board, entirely appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, also moved to increase rents on two-year leases by just two percent, the lowest in the board’s 46-year existence. The decision follows last week’s lackluster vote at the state level to only extend but not strengthen rent regulations. “Cuomo betrayed us, the RGB can save us,” tenants chanted at the meeting.
Mayor de Blasio praised the board for their decision, and in a statement released shortly after the vote, said, “This was the right call. For the first time in the history of the Rent Guidelines Board, more than a million hardworking and hard-pressed tenants will see no increase in their rent. We know tenants have been forced to make painful choices that pitted ever-rising rent against necessities like groceries, childcare and medical bills. Today’s decision means relief.”
While tenants groups and officials were elated, owners were far less thrilled. Aaron Sirulnick, chairman of The Rent Stabilization Association and a building owner told Crain’s, “I think a zero percent increase would be harder on the tenants because it’s going to be even much harder for the owners to put money back into the properties. It’s hard to imagine a zero percent revenue increase will help anybody in this process.” He also called the vote an “unconscionable, politically driven decision to carry out de Blasio’s campaign promise of two years ago.”
Rachel D. Godsil, the chairwoman of the board, however, begged to differ, saying that operating costs are down thanks lower fuel costs and that “the majority of owners are faring well.”
According to the Times, “research by the board staff showed that landlords’ operating incomes after expenses had grown for nine consecutive years, most recently by 3.4 percent. Their operating costs grew by only 0.5 percent.” Stabilized renters by comparison saw stagnant incomes that weren’t keeping up with rising housing costs.
Both measures apply to leases renewed between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016.
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