The Rent Guidelines Board did something it has never done last night. For the first time in the 46-year history of the body that sets increases for rent regulated apartments, board members voted for a freeze on one-year leases. The 7-2 vote was the first by a board that was fully appointed by Mayor de Blasio. The board last night also voted to increase two-year leases by 2%.
The mayor, who has staked his political future on creating affordable housing, wasted no time trumpeting the decision. Here’s part of the email blast that went out last night:
For the more than one million New Yorkers living in rent-stabilized apartments whose leases expire this year, tonight’s decision means real relief… The Rent Guidelines Board based tonight’s decision on months of research into the costs and pressures facing owners and tenants alike, and on the voices of New Yorkers who engaged in the Rent Guidelines Board’s public process. My administration and I are firmly committed to keeping New York City affordable… We are committed to maintaining the financial health of our affordable housing.
Local tenant advocacy groups, such as GOLES, CAAAV and the Cooper Square Committee, were out in force for the board meeting at Cooper Union. While they were obviously elated, landlord organizations fumed. Joseph Strasburg of the Rent Stabilization Association told the New York Times that the freeze is an “unconscionable, politically driven decision to carry out de Blasio’s campaign promise of two years ago.” The move, he warned, means “landlords will now have to forgo repairing, maintaining and preserving their apartments, which will trigger the deterioration of quality, affordable housing de Blasio pretends to care about.” Board members, however, countered that their research reports show that building owners are doing well, increasing their operating incomes, while tenants are struggling financially.
In a statement, City Council member Margaret Chin said, “This historic vote is a welcome relief to the hundreds of thousands of rent-stabilized tenants struggling to make ends meet in a city where the costs of living have skyrocketed while wages have remained stagnant. I applaud the Rent Guidelines Board, who by taking this action, have heard the pleas of hard-working New Yorkers.”