Rent-Stabilized Apartments See Small Bump, Despite Mayor's Call for Freeze

By Amy Zimmer on June 23, 2014 12:28pm | Updated on June 23, 2014 10:04pm

 The Lower East Side is one of many neighborhoods where rent-stabilized apartments have been disappearing.
The Lower East Side is one of many neighborhoods where rent-stabilized apartments have been disappearing.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

MANHATTAN — The Rent Guidelines Board voted Monday for a 1 percent rent increase on one-year leases and nearly 3 percent on two-year leases, side-stepping calls for a rent freeze on the city's nearly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments.

Tenants, advocates and politicians, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, pushed the board to keep rents exactly as they are on stabilized units, but the members resisted during their annual meeting at Cooper Union.

“It is disappointing that the Rent Guidelines Board voted in support of a rent increase, despite hours of testimony from concerned, hard-working New Yorkers fighting to make ends meet,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.

Last month, the board voted to consider raising rents on one-year leases after Oct. 1 anywhere from 0 to 3 percent. For two-year leases, the board is considering rent increases between 0.5 to 4.5 percent.

"While we appreciate that the increase was kept to a minimum, as our city’s housing crisis comes to a head, it’s crucial that we utilize every opportunity to fight for and preserve affordability for the New Yorkers who call this city home," the speaker said.

Renters earning between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, for example, paid roughly 41 percent of their income toward rent in 2012, up from 33 percent in 2000, according to a report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

"High rent increases by the RGB have, and will, only increase landlord profits and further chip away at New York City’s affordable housing stock, which lost at least 14,175 rent-stabilized units in 2011 alone," Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development, wrote recently on his organization's blog.

Last year, the RGB voted to increase rents on one-year leases by 4 percent and rents on two-year leases by 7.75 percent — hikes that were nearly double the previous year.

DeBlasio appointed five of the nine board members, yet the group bucked his call for a rent freeze.

Landlords of rent-stabilized apartments say their costs continue to rise and that a freeze would hurt their ability to provide needed services for their buildings.  Their expenses increased by roughly 6 percent over the past year, according the Rent Stabilization Association, an organization representing landlords. 

"A zero would be a disaster for everybody," the RSA's Jack Freund said.

"If owners don't get enough money to operate their buildings, then tenants live in deteriorating circumstances," he said, explaining that small building owners put money from rent increases back into their buildings for repairs and maintenance, and to cover property taxes and water bills.

"The fact of the matter is, there are many tenants in stabilized housing that don't need the protections and can afford an increase," he added, "and there are some people who are poor and can't afford an increase, but you can't lay that burden on property owners and not expect consequences."

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