Two weeks after Albany lawmakers passed a landmark group of bills to protect tenants, the city’s Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) voted to increase rent for the nearly one million rent-stabilized units.
As activists chanted “shame on you” at a packed Tuesday night meeting, the board voted 5-4 to increase rents by 1.5 percent for one-year leases and 2.5 percent for two-year leases—the same increases as last year. (There has not been a rent freeze since 2016, even as the city struggles with an affordability crisis.) The rent hike applies to renewal leases starting on or after October 1, 2019 and on or before September 30, 2020.
The board’s chair and owner representatives cited rising building operating costs, which increased 5.5 percent from March 2018 to March 2019, according to an RGB report. Landlord advocates were not satisfied with the increase percentage and cited the new rent laws passed in Albany.
“The increases will make it impossible for owners of hundreds of thousands of rent stabilized units to maintain their properties and serve their tenants—For the past 20 years, owner costs have far exceeded the RGB’s allowable rent increases,” Jamie McShane, senior VP of communications at the Real Estate Board of New York, told Curbed in a statement.
“Given that this year’s rent reforms in Albany will cause Net Operating Incomes for many owners to drop by 25% within five years, the RGB’s decision will make that imbalance even worse.”
But tenant representatives and activists were disappointed about the decision.
“I think folks ran scared because of what happened in the rent laws and think that landlords will be hurting, we have seen no data to support that, and yet we voted against freezing rents for tenants again,” Sheila Garcia, one of the tenant’s representatives on the board, told Curbed. “And so we are here again, to have the same conversation about whether we should continue to expand profit for landlords and take away from tenants.”
“Yes, these rent laws were renewed, they were meant to protect the tenants, that’s not to say that now the landlords are going to suffer, so I’m very frustrated and disappointed with the Rent Guidelines Board,” Pilar DeJesus, a paralegal from the Community Development Project, told Curbed following the vote.
For the past months, the RGB has been hearing testimony from rent-stabilized tenants and landlords across the city’s five boroughs. People of all ages, including children, teenagers, and young adults, gave their testimony at the hearings, citing a struggle to afford living in the city with rising costs.
“There are people who are forced to have several jobs in order to survive in this city that never sleeps,” Kimberly Morales, a recent Hunter College graduate and Sunset Park resident said at one of the public testimonies.
“Mind you, a city that never sleeps not because we party all night, but because we work all day and night to survive,” she added.