Vote on rent increases will proceed, remotely
City decided against suspension of proceedings citing legal concerns
The Rent Guidelines Board will hold meetings remotely this year, but Mayor Bill de Blasio is still calling on the body to freeze rents for stabilized apartments.
The mayor announced on Friday that the board will meet, despite announcing last month that the city was working with the state to suspend the RGB’s proceedings. He said there were some legal concerns associated with suspending the board, so it will instead work “remotely” and “quickly.” He urged the board to “look at the facts.”
“New Yorkers are going through the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” he said. “Lord knows people do not need another burden at this moment.”
Last year, the RGB signed off on a 1.5 percent increase for one-year leases and a 2.5 percent hike for two-year leases for both rent-stabilized apartments and lofts. In 2018, the board approved an increase of 1.5 percent, but that was preceded by two years of rent freezes.
Following the passage of the state’s Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, landlords indicated that the RGB would face more pressure to make up for the restrictions placed on rent increases by the state law. The HSTPA halted owners’ ability to hike rents upon an apartment’s vacancy and curbed the increases applied through renovations.
That was, of course, before the coronavirus crisis. The state implemented a 90-day moratorium on evictions, but it’s unclear what will happen to tenants who haven’t been paying their rent come mid-June. State legislators have called for a six-month extension on the ban, and there are also calls to temporarily suspend rent collection.
In the first five days of April, 31 percent of tenants nationwide did not make rent payments, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.
Real Estate Board of New York President James Whelan noted in a statement that while New Yorkers are in “an unprecedented crisis,” owners are facing rising costs. He pointed to the analysis the RBG conducts each year to inform its decision on increases, a report REBNY and other groups have criticized as incomplete.
“If performed accurately, the Rent Guidelines Board’s analyses will show that the City continues to raise property taxes on rent stabilized buildings and the cost of utilities and building service workers also continues to rise,” he said. “While undoubtedly politically popular, the Mayor’s proposal to freeze rents does nothing to address these findings nor explains how these expenses will be paid for.”
When asked by a reporter during Friday’s press conference if rents have been frozen for the tenants in his own building, the mayor answered, “Our tenants are employed and able to pay.”
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