To err is human, and the chair of the Rent Guidelines Board might be the biggest mensch of all. On Thursday night the board met to vote on the increases that landlords will be able to charge rent-stabilized tenants next year. Under the impression that he was voting on another matter, chairman Ed Hochman inadvertently cast the deciding vote in a 5-to-4 decision to raise rents in most private single-room occupancy buildings by 5 percent.
The increase affects SROs that have been converted from apartment buildings (about 70 percent of all SROs) and rooming houses. According to a source close to the board, Hochman had intended to vote in the increase for Class A hotels, apartments that offer residents hotel services.
With many landlords making good money by converting their SROs to tourist hotels and college dorm rooms, tenants and advocates say that the increase is particularly unfair. “These landlords rent to tourists for $75 to $100 a day,” said Terry Poe, supervisor of organizers at the West Side SRO Law Project. “Most of their money is being made that way now.”
Hochman tried to correct the mistake, but the rules of order prevented a re-vote. He and anxious tenants will now have to wait until June 24, when the board will reconvene to take the final vote on the rent rates.
The board also voted to raise rents on rent stabilized apartments by 2 percent for one-year leases and 4 percent for two-year leases, despite a report that showed landlord costs increased by only 0.03 percent last year, including lower than usual fuel costs. Rents in lofts will increase by 1 percent.