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Renters see lowest rent increase in history

Craig D. Frazier | 6/26/2014, 10:33 a.m.

Ignoring Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council’s recommendation for a rent freeze, the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) on Monday voted to increase rents. Landlords can raise costs of the city’s 1 million rent-stabilized apartments 1 percent for the next fiscal year. A nine-member panel, appointed by the mayor, also approved an increase of 2.75 percent for two-year leases of rent-stabilized units.

The proposal, one of several the board had considered, passed 5-4, but not before more than an hour of angry protests by tenants’ groups, whose chants and angry shouts often drowned out the board members as they spoke.

The slight increases were proposed by RGB member Steven Flax, a de Blasio appointee who is vice president for community development at M&T Bank. “It costs money to run buildings, and I do believe that my proposal is sincerely a historic change,” Flax said at a meeting filled with incensed renters this week.

The mayor sought to make the best of the situation, saying he was “heartened” that the hike was a historic low. Since its creation in 1969, the RGB has never passed increases of less than 2 percent and 4 percent.

Only hours before the meeting, de Blasio told reporters that his predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had been too generous to landlords. “We need a course correction, a one-time action to clearly rectify the mistakes of the past,” de Blasio said, happy about the proposal.

Last year, the board granted landlords a 4 percent increase on one-year leases and a 7.75 percent increase on two-year lease renewals. Its highest increase in the last seven years came in 2008, at the height of the recession, when it approved a 4.5 percent increase on one-year leases and an 8.5 percent increase on two-year leases.