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Rent-stabilized tenants in NYC may get another rent freeze

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The freeze on rent hikes may well continue for a third consecutive year

It’s looking likely that 2017 will bring a third consecutive year of city-wide rent freeze for rent-stabilized tenants, thanks to the findings of this year’s annual study by the Rent Guidelines Board. The report, cited by the New York Post, shows that the cost to operate rent-stabilized properties is not prohibitive for landlords on average. In fact, the average net operating income—that is, a landlord’s earnings after operating and maintenance costs but before taxes and debt payments—of landlords who own rent-stabilized properties increased nearly 11 percent between 2014 and 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.

That’s the biggest increase in net operating income the city’s seen since 1998, and “could be used to justify another freeze” when the new rates are voted on come June, according to analysis by the Post.

Landlords, however, are not really buying it. “These are nothing more than alternative numbers from the de Blasio puppets on the Rent Guidelines Board and the city’s Finance Department,” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), which represents 25,000 landlords of one million rent-stabilized apartments. They argue that the numbers don’t actually reflect reality, alleging that not all the units measured by the RBC are rent-stabilized.

This gaggle of landlords has reason to be miffed: On Tuesday, the Post reports, the RSA lost a related lawsuit, in which they argued city officials had “improperly considered tenant affordability when enacting the moratorium last summer” in order to advance de Blasio’s own political agenda.

If the freeze goes through, that would make this the third year that rents on rent-stabilized apartments won’t budge, and the third year of tenant relief and landlord frustration. “A rent freeze on the surface may sound pro-tenant, but the reality is landlords will now have to forgo repairing, maintaining, and preserving their apartments, which will trigger the deterioration of quality affordable housing de Blasio pretends to care about," Strasburg noted after the first rent freeze, in 2015.

Last year, Patrick Siconolfi, the executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), an organization representing 3,500 apartment-building owners, made a similar case against the freeze, arguing that the city should be “lowering the high property tax rates levied upon multi-family building owners” instead of “unilaterally freezing rent.”

Needless to say, tenants—and de Blasio—have historically seen the freezes somewhat differently. The Tuesday ruling to overturn the lawsuit against rent freezes was called a victory by de Blasio, who noted that “working people have beaten the landlord lobby,” the Post reports. The judge ruled that, contrary to the RSA’s counter-arguments, the RGB can indeed “consider tenants’ economic situations” when determining whether or not to raise rents. “We have more work to do, but together we ware turning the tide,” the mayor said. The RSA plans to appeal the decision.