New York City

NYC Rent Guidelines Board freezes rents on 1-year leases

June 30, 2015 By Deepti Hajela Associated Press
Senior citizens attend a public meeting of the Rent Guidelines Board on June 8. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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 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.

The vote came before a crowd of jubilant tenants and advocates, who cheered when it became clear the proposal would pass. The board voted to increase rents on two-year leases by 2 percent.

The city has more than 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, accommodating more than 2 million people.

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The board last year voted to raise rents by 1 percent on one-year leases and 2.75 percent on two-year leases, and state legislators voted last week to extend rent regulations for another four years.

“It’s historic, it’s a win for affordable housing,” said Wasim Lone, 58, who’s been living in a rent-stabilized apartment on the Lower East Side for 20 years.

Karen Smith, who lives with her grandmother in a rent-stabilized apartment in the Bronx, called the decision “amazing.”

“This is necessary for people to just live in New York City,” she said.

Both measures apply to leases renewed between Oct. 1 of this year and Sept. 30, 2016.

The board has nine members. Two represent tenants, two represent owners and five are members of the public. Owner representative Sara Williams Willard voted against the proposal, saying, “This is myopic, it’s biased.” The other owner representative also voted against it.

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.

Current board members were picked by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spoke out last year in favor of a rent freeze but didn’t ask for any specific action this year.

De Blasio said the vote was “the right call” and praised the board.

“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,” he said.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said he is “gratified that the Rent Guidelines Board — for the first time in its history — has heard the voice of the people. As my report The Growing Gap: New York City’s Housing Affordability Challenge found, the stock of affordable rent-stabilized apartments is declining in our city and low-income households are increasingly burdened by their rent payments. Tonight’s decision will provide much-needed relief to households throughout the five boroughs who have been hit hard by recent changes in the city’s housing landscape.”

 The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, said any rent freeze or small increase needed to be met with property tax and utilities relief for building owners.

“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,” said Aaron Sirulnick, chairman of the association and a building owner. He added, “It’s hard to imagine a zero percent revenue increase will help anybody in this process.”

“With today’s rent freeze, common sense prevailed at the Rent Guidelines Board and tenants made history,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “As a small property owner and landlord, I have long understood that it is possible to make a rent freeze work because I have managed to provide it for years to the tenants in my own building. This is the right thing to do for our tenant population that is struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck, spending an inordinate amount of their earnings on having a safe place to call home. Solving our affordable housing crisis is not an easy task, and it will require hard choices. However, the needs of many must always outweigh the greed of a few. At a time where leaders in Albany have failed to stand up for the tenants that make this city’s greatness possible, it is more important than ever that leaders in New York City have stood up for them.”

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