New Yorkers who live in the city’s one million rent-stabilized apartments have enjoyed a slowdown in rent hikes under Mayor de Blasio.
While the Rent Guidelines Board—which the mayor controls—permitted a cumulative 12 percent rise in one-year rents during Michael Bloomberg’s final term, there’s been only a combined 2.25 percent jump in stabilized rents under the current mayor. Some apartments might have seen bigger hikes because the landlord claimed to have made capital improvements, or the apartment was vacated and reoccupied, or the property owner withdrew or reduced a “preferential rent” discount. But in general, the climb in housing costs has been slowed for the city’s stabilized set.
However, people living in apartments governed by the smaller, older system called “rent control” have not been as fortunate. Rent changes for those 27,000 or so apartments are governed not by the annual decisions of the Rent Guidelines Board but by what’s called the Maximum Base Rent system. Every two years, the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) adjusts the Maximum Base Rent for rent-controlled apartments using a formula based on costs to landlords like taxes and water fees. Landlords who file applications asserting they have corrected any outstanding, serious housing-code violations are then permitted to hike a tenant’s rent as much as 7.5 percent a year until the Maximum Base Rent (or MBR) is reached.
In 2015, the MBR was jacked up 9.6 percent. This year the agency has projected a 7.2 percent increase.
Housing advocates are pressing Gov. Cuomo to intervene in this year’s process and freeze rents, something the governor says he does not have the power to do. The advocates’ argument is that residents of rent-controlled housing are largely senior citizens on fixed incomes—after all, to live under rent control you essentially have to have occupied the apartment since the 1970s.
The shrinking size of the rent-control system and the growing burden of rents within it are key parts of this story. Here is how the recent numbers look, according to the triennial federal Housing and Vacancy Survey for New York City: