With the narrowest possible margin, the city’s Rent Guidelines Board voted 5-4 to allow rent increases on NYC’s 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, at a packed meeting at Cooper Union Hall, Tuesday night. Amid shouts of “shame, shame, shame,” and “rent freeze,” the board voted to allow increases of 1.5 percent on one-year leases, and 2.5 percent on two-leases.
In a preliminary vote in April this year—in what was another tight decision—the board approved increases of between 0.75 percent to 2.75 percent for one-year leases, and between 1.75 percent to 3.75 percent increases for two-year leases. Tuesday’s final decision fell somewhere in between that range.
This now marks the second year in a row that the Rent Guidelines Board has approved rent increases after two historic rent freezes in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, the board voted for increases of 1.25 percent on one-year leases, and 2 percent on two-year leases. Tuesday’s decision was the largest percentage increase since 2013, according to the New York Times. The city has seen some of the lowest increases under the Bill de Blasio administration, but the percentage of increases is moving in the upward direction once again.
The Rent Guidelines Board is comprised of nine members—two tenant representatives, two owner/landlord representatives, and five members of the public, all of whom have been appointed by the mayor. In Tuesday’s vote, four public members, and one landlord member voted in favor of the increases, thereby sealing the fate of the vote.
The city saw a net gain of nearly 4,400 rent-stabilized apartments last year, but with a vacancy rate of 3.63 percent, it is still extremely hard for tenants to find affordable housing. In the months leading up to Tuesday’s final vote, tenants and housing advocates continued to highlight the affordable housing crisis that has gripped New York City—an estimate last year put NYC’s homeless population at 76,000.
Landlords have touted their own hardships as well; a report published by the Rent Guidelines Board showed a variety of cost increases for landlords last year. And while that might be true, Leah Goodridge, one of the tenant representatives on the RGB, argued, landlords had benefitted from increases for years prior to the de Blasio administration.
Still, the board could not agree on what would have been a third historic rent freeze in just four years. The rent increases will go in effect on October 1 this year, for those renewing their leases.