The rate increases for the city’s 1 million regulated apartments are lower than property owners have pushed for, citing rising costs. But tenants and housing advocates who’ve called for a rent freeze say the hike will worsen the city’s eviction crisis.
New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board voted Thursday night to increase rents for the city’s approximately 1 million stabilized apartments—proposing 2 to 4 percent hikes for one-year leases and 4 to 6 percent hikes on two-year leases.
The rates are lower than property owners have pushed for, citing rising costs. But tenants and advocates who’ve called for a rent freeze say the hike will worsen the city’s eviction and affordable housing crisis. A final, binding vote on the plan will be held in June, and New Yorkers will have the opportunity to weigh in on the changes at two public hearings in May.
The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), whose nine members are appointed by the mayor, has set annual rates for the city’s rent-regulated apartments since 1968, and for decades imposed some form of an increase, with hikes ranging from 1 to 10 percent over the years between its launch and 2015, a prior City Limits analysis found.
Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the board took a more tenant-friendly approach, imposing an unprecedented rent freeze for the first time in 2015-2016 and two other times during his tenure; the panel imposed more modest increases on four other occasions under the prior administration. Last year, the RGB voted to freeze rents for six months before allowing a 1.5 percent increase on one-year leases starting April 1. Two-year leases saw a 2.5 percent increase.
Since taking office, Mayor Eric Adams has appointed three members to fill vacant seats on the board, including a landlord lawyer, a self-described rent control skeptic and a housing attorney with the Legal Aid Society. The board’s makeup is designed to be split among different interests groups, with two members representing tenants, two representing property owners and five members “appointed to represent the general public.”
The rates the board voted to consider Thursday were a middle ground between what its tenant and landlords members had pitched: the board’s two property owner members called for rent increases as high as 6.5 percent on one-year leases and 8.5 percent on two-year leases, while its two tenant representatives proposed increases of no higher than 1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
But neither side appeared happy with the rates the board landed on with its preliminary vote Thursday. In a statement, Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association which represents property owners, said the numbers “have proven our biggest fear—that the RGB continues to believe its duty is to operate solely as an affordability program for tenants.”
He cited “increases in inflation, property taxes, water bills, and heating oil and other operating costs,” as well as the “millions of dollars in unpaid rent” that amassed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to authorize a rent increase that keeps up with these costs, so housing providers have the ability to maintain their buildings and make sure that the buildings are safe,” said Christina Smyth, one of the RGB’s members representing landlords.
But tenants and housing advocates say the 2 to 4 percent hikes could have devastating consequences for the city’s approximately two million New Yorkers who live in stabilized units.
“Tenants are still struggling to survive. Landlords of rent regulated buildings have been making record profits. Many public members and landlords pretend this isn’t true,” said Sheila Garcia, one of two tenant representatives on the board.
Property owners purchased some 777 rent stabilized buildings in 2021, she noted. “In the height of a pandemic, they were buying properties. That means that they saw this as a lucrative investment,” she said.
Garcia Zoomed into the meeting from The Bronx, where she was surrounded by tenants holding signs urging the board to roll back rents rather than increase them.
“I just want to make sure that the sentiment in this room is heard,” she said. “People are suggesting that maybe when they get evicted, they can come and live with some of the board members who are imposing these increases, because those 2 percent at the minimum would be devastating to most of the folks in this room.”
Tenant advocates say the hikes will worsen the city’s current housing crisis, where residents are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic and the local unemployment rate is among the highest in the country. Housing court cases are mounting again after the end of the eviction moratorium at the the start of the year, and rents for market-rate apartments are on the rise. Nearly 50,000 New Yorkers sleep in the city’s homeless shelter system each night.
In a statement, Mayor Adams said “it was good the board moved lower” than the nearly 9 percent increase its landlord members had proposed.
“But if rents and the other costs of living are going to go up with inflation and other economic issues, then so too must government support, which is why I have been fighting for a more generous housing voucher program, a more robust earned income tax credit, and significant investments in child care,” his statement said.
The RGB will hold two public hearings next month to get feedback on the proposed rates before a final vote in June; if approved, the new rules would effect leases in place from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2023.
The public hearings will take place as follows:
- Monday, June 13th at the Jamacia Performing Arts Center in Queens from 5 to 9 p.m.
- Wednesday, June 15th in the main theater of Hostos Community College in The Bronx from 4 to 9 p.m.