The Rent Guidelines Board’s (RGB) vote last week to hike up rents on rent-stabilized apartments by 3% has caused a major uproar among residents, housing advocates and city council members.
RGB voted 5-4 to approve an adjustment of 3% on a one-year lease, 2.75% for the first year on a two-year lease, and 3.2% of the amount lawfully charged in the first year, excluding any increases other than the first-year guideline increase. The board stipulated that the increases were necessary to cover rising costs and maintenance on buildings. These rent adjustments apply to leases starting on October 1, 2023 and go through to September 30, 2024.
Disappointed city officials and advocates continue to warn higher ups about the housing and affordability crisis while demanding more action.
“The Rent Guidelines Board’s vote to authorize rent increases, while on the lower end of the proposed ranges, will only further exacerbate the homelessness and housing crisis in our communities at a time when New Yorkers can least afford it,” said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams in a statement. “As our city grapples with a record-high shelter population, an affordable housing shortage that remains unabated, and rising costs, New York City tenants increasingly struggle to make ends meet. This will harm our communities, deepen the lack of affordability, and make it even more difficult for New Yorkers to remain in their homes and work in the city they love.”
Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), said that history is cyclical and what the city is experiencing now is the poor housing policies and issues that led to the housing crisis in the 1970s. Martin, like many others, believe that city and state governments are not putting forth enough solutions to lower housing costs.
A 2023 report from the Fund for New York City and United Way indicates that 50% of New York households are struggling to cover their basic needs, and that almost 80% of households spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
Council Member Crystal Hudson, who chairs the Committee on Aging, said in a statement that residents are clear in their opposition to the RGB vote. Hudson said tenants gathered at public hearings across the five boroughs to testify about the material effects such increases would have on them and their communities with the backdrop of unprecedented inflation. She called the increases “negligent and irresponsible,” especially for older adults living in rent-stabilized units on fixed incomes.
“As is always the case, our Black, brown, poor, and working class communities will bear the brunt of this decision, and will be among the first to be evicted,” said Hudson.
After the RGB vote, concerned New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents and community organizations gathered at City Hall Park on Thursday, June 22 to demand rent relief and protect public housing. Because of complications during the COVID pandemic an estimated 71,341 NYCHA households are at risk of eviction, despite an Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) program that was supposed to help.
“New York state was alone in deciding that public housing residents were less important than other renters. In my own home, the Polo Grounds, nearly 800 families could be evicted. But we aren’t gonna let that happen,” said Community Voices Heard Member Leader Barbara Williams. “As the city finalizes its budget, I call on Mayor Adams and the City Council to invest 400 million dollars to cover back rent and keep NYCHA running. We won’t be put at the back of the line anymore!”
Council Member Charles Barron, who attended the rally, said he grew up in “the projects” on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. “We got some of the greatest people living in public housing,” said Barron.
Mayor Eric Adams, in a statement, thanked the RGB for “extremely difficult work” protecting tenants from unsustainable rent increases while also ensuring small property owners have resources. He seemingly agreed that the real solution to the affordable housing crisis was building more housing and office conversions among other things. In a contrary move though, Adams decided to veto CityFHEPS housing voucher bills recently passed by City Council and homeless services providers. The bills included provisions for the 90-day rule, which deals with nonimmigrant work visas.
Mayor Adams was categorically slammed by council members and advocates who had touted the legislative package as a critical resource to transitioning asylum seekers out of the shelter and emergency site system and into permanent housing.
According to city data, the average length of stay in shelter was 802 days for adult families, 485 days for families with children, and 441 days for single adults, which costs the city about $8,773 per month for a family of two in 2022. A CityFHEPS voucher for the same family would significantly lower the cost, said city council.
“The mayor is only hurting the city by delaying solutions and contributing to the eviction crisis that leads more New Yorkers to lose their homes, become homeless, and join the already-high shelter population,” said Speaker Adams in a statement. “The Council is prepared to override the mayor’s veto to truly confront the rapidly deteriorating eviction and homelessness crises made worse by this Administration’s budget cuts and failure to enact solutions.”
Mayor Adams said in a response to criticisms of his veto that the city council bills legally exceeded their “authority” and would make it harder for individuals to move into permanent housing, while costing city taxpayers billions of dollars per year.
“Though the Department of Social Services has steadily increased the total number of CityFHEPS vouchers distributed, the option to provide vouchers to every person who would be eligible under the Council’s bills is far beyond what the city can provide,” said the mayor. “The bills not only create expectations among vulnerable New Yorkers that cannot be met, they also take aim at the wrong problem.”
He said that he sincerely hopes, going forward, to work with the City Council to advance practical and fiscally responsible efforts to support New Yorkers in danger of homelessness, including an aggressive, citywide effort to build more housing in every neighborhood.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.