The investment banker known for leading the Rent Guidelines Board in passing the highest rent increases in the board’s history is back.
Noting his experience in housing finance, Mayor Bloomberg on Friday appointed Marvin Markus chair of the board that determines the rent increases for stabilized and controlled apartments in New York City. Markus, a vice president at Goldman Sachs, chaired the board under Mayor Ed Koch from 1979 to 1984.
Since then, he has held senior posts at PaineWebber, Kidder Peabody & Co., and Bear Sterns, and, from 1974 to 1979, at the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. He currently serves as president of the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council, a housing and economic development policy research group.
By all accounts, the time during which Markus first took the reins of the board was a difficult one for landlords: Inflation and fuel costs had skyrocketed. In 1980, to address their rising costs, the board–with Markus as chair–approved 11 and 14 percent increases on one- and two-year leases, respectively, for rent-stabilized apartments, up from an 8.5 percent increase on one-year leases a year earlier. In 1981, the increases dropped 1 percentage point, and fell further, to 4 and 7 percent, in 1982.
While landlord representatives commend him for his fairness in using economic research to determine the guidelines, among tenants Markus earned the nickname Marvin “Mark-up.”
“It was a tough economy,” recalled William Rowen, director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing at the time. “But we ended up reasonably arguing that when landlords’ costs went down, they didn’t drop the guidelines that much…. If you give it to the landlords when it’s high, you’ve got to give it back to the tenants when it’s low.”
At least one landlord rep says it’s not Markus’ policy decisions that concern her, but his ability to control a crowd. “In the early ‘80s, the Rent Guidelines Board was an absolute circus,” said Roberta Bernstein, executive director of the Small Property Owners of New York. “Audience participation was to a very extreme level with people acting out and even getting occasionally violent.”
Despite this, she hopes Markus will recognize the landlords’ needs and address them based on the Rent Guidelines Board’s research on landlord income and the rental market, to be released next month. While landlord and tenant advocates alike are waiting for the numbers before nailing down their own guidelines proposals, Jenny Laurie, current director of Met Council, expects her group will ask for either no rent increase or a decrease.
Whatever this season’s guidelines debate brings, Markus said he’s happy to be a part of it again: “It’s an important job. There’s no reason not to want to be on the board.”