Monday night’s Rent Guidelines Board meeting in Cooper Union’s Great Hall opened with chants of “Fight, fight, fight – Housing is a right!” and “El Pueblo unido jamás será vencido!”
Each year the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), which consists of two tenant-members, two owner-members, four public-members and a chair, decides how much landlords can raise the rent of over a million stabilized apartments in New York City.
The owner-members’ proposal – to increase one year leases by 3% and two year leases by 5% – was booed by the audience of tenant activists and ultimately shot down by a 7-2 vote.
The tenant-members, Sheila Garcia and Harvey Epstein, proposed a rent rollback of 4% on one year leases and a 2% rollback on two year leases.
“We’re here about landlords being overcompensated for years and decades,” Garcia said amid cheers from the crowd.
“This is not a free market. We have the rent stabilized housing stock for a reason. We have the Rent Guidelines Board for a reason,” Epstein added. “Tenants are struggling.”
Despite roars of approval from the audience, Garcia and Epstein’s proposed rollback was also defeated by a 7-2 vote.
In the end, the board voted in favor of a rent freeze for one year leases and an increase of 2% for two year leases.
While many were disappointed that the proposed rollback failed, the rent freeze offered some reassurance.
Elizabeth Ortiz has lived in rent stabilized housing on the Lower East Side her whole life. “I felt a little bit relieved,” she said of the RGB’s final vote. “It could’ve definitely been far worse.”
Noranda Bracero is also a lifetime LES resident and works as a housing counselor at GOLES. “This affects all of our clients, our community,” she said. “It’s drastic what we have to do to protect our homes.”