Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Rent Freeze Approved For Second Consecutive Year In Historic Vote

The Rent Guidelines Board voted for a zero percent increase on one-year leases, and a two percent increase on two-year leases

Amid loud chants of "rent go back," and "together, united we’ll never be defeated," the city’s Rent Guidelines Board approved a rent freeze on one-year leases for rent-stabilized apartments — tenants wanted more, but it was a historic verdict nonetheless, marking a second consecutive freeze following the one last year.

The nine-member board voted 7-0, with two abstentions (from the members representing the interests of landlords) to approve a zero percent increase on one-year leases, and a two-percent increase on two-year leases — the same decision as last year.

A report released by the Board in April this year indicated that operational costs for landlords had likely gone down due to a drop in fuel costs. That prompted tenants and advocates to ask for a roll back on rents, but the board wasn’t quite ready to oblige.

The board is comprised of two tenant representatives, two landlord representatives, and five members of the public, all appointed by the mayor. So how did the proceedings work exactly? The landlord representatives first had a chance to make a motion, followed by the tenant reps, and finally the chairperson of the board.

The landlord reps wanted a three percent increase on one-year leases, and a five percent increase on two-year leases, but that was voted down. Tenant reps wanted a four percent decrease on one-year leases, and a two percent decrease on two-year leases, but that too was rejected by the overall board. The chairperson’s motion however did pass muster, and even the tenant reps were on board, telling the packed auditorium at Cooper Union, at last night’s meeting that a freeze wasn’t enough, but it was still a big step in the right direction.

Members of the landlord community were obviously miffed by the decision.

"The freeze damages housing," Patrick Siconolfi, the executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), an organization representing 3,500 apartment-building owners, said in a statement. "With municipal taxes making up the largest percentage of a building’s operating costs, the City needs to look instead at lowering the high property tax rates levied upon multi-family building owners rather than unilaterally freezing rent for an additional year."

Now, tenants living in rent-stabilized units, whose leases expire between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017 can renew at the same rate for one-year, and tenants with two-year leases will be able to do so with a two percent increase.

Since Bill de Blasio has been in office, one-year leases have only seen a one percent increase in the past three years — and that was in his first year in office, according to the Wall Street Journal. That too was a historic decision as it was the lowest increase since the board was created in 1969.

This consecutive rent freeze had been hinted for months, and last month, in a preliminary vote, the board has also approved the freeze, but in a narrower vote. The decision last night was preceded by several public meetings over the past few months.


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