Albany be damned: Rent Guidelines Board votes for rent increases

Stephon Johnson | 6/27/2019, midnight
About 2.5 million rent stabilized New York residents will see another raise in rents this year.

About 2.5 million rent stabilized New York residents will see another raise in rents this year.

On Tuesday, June 25, the nine-member Rent Guidelines Board voted 5-4 to increase rents for one-year leases to 1.5 percent, two-year leases to 2.5 percent and zero percent for single room occupancy and residential hotels starting this October.

Advocates against rent increases protested during the meeting at Cooper Union, letting their voices scream over panel members delivering statements.

Housing activists felt like the vote was a gut punch to all of their work.

“This rent increase will lead to evictions, displacement and homelessness,” stated Metropolitan Council on Housing Executive Director Ava Farkas. “We are disappointed that Mayor de Blasio’s Rent Guidelines Board listened more to landlords complaining about the new rent laws rather than to the facts. The facts show that for 13 straight years landlord net operating income has

increased. The facts show that a

majority of tenants are rent burdened. The facts show that homelessness continues to increase for the 10th straight year. Landlord profits were given more priority than rent affordability and that is just plain wrong.”

Earlier this month, state legislators passed several new housing reforms, including the abolition of vacancy decontrol and vacancy bonus, the limiting of rent increases to 3 percent for major capital improvements, preventing landlords from raising rents to the maximum level when leases are renewed, and requiring state inspection of certain building improvements.

Vacancy decontrol regulations set rent at market or close to market rates when a unit becomes vacant. It regulates rent increases by the consumer price index, the percentage of existing rent and a tenant’s household income. Vacancy bonus allows landlords to increase rent by an extra 18 percent for a one-year lease or 20 percent for the two-year lease once a tenant leaves.

Albany’s new law makes rent stabilization rules permanent.

Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society and former New York City Rent Guidelines Board Tenant Member Adrience Holder said she hoped the Board would eventually reverse their vote.

“We are disappointed that the Board chose to heed the fear-mongering of landlords and place their profits over preserving affordable and stable housing for tenants across New York City,” stated Holder. “It is the most vulnerable, low-income families that are already struggling to get by in one of the most expensive cities in the world who will bear the brunt of this rent increase. Their right to remain in their communities and keep a roof over their families should have been prioritized.

“While the stark economic divide between the rich and the poor continues to rapidly grow and over 61,000 people experience homelessness every night in the city, it is mind boggling that the Board voted to raise rents on the neediest residents for a third consecutive year,” concluded Holder.

But the ire of citizens isn’t just at the Board. One housing advocate at Cooper Union directed a shot at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with a sign. He surrounded a picture of the mayor with question marks, and his sign read “Missing Mayor. Last Seen: Miami.” The mayor was out of town so that he could be part of the first Democratic Presidential Debate that was set to take place Wednesday night.