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NYC Quashes Rent Freeze Pushed by de Blasio

Monday, June 23, 2014

WNYC
Tenants rallying for a freeze on rent increases before the RGB vote on June 23, 2014. (Sarah Gonzalez/WNYC)

Despite lobbying efforts by tenant advocates and Mayor Bill de Blasio, a proposed rent freeze on rent-regulated apartments failed Monday night. By a 5-4 vote, the Rent Guidelines Board approved a one percent rent increase on one-year leases and a 2.75 percent increase on two-year leases. Board member Steven Flax, a de Blasio appointee, said he had to vote his conscience. “I have to say this moment is a nightmare,” he said before apologizing for voting in favor of the rent increase. Flax said it's costly money to run a building and that landlords need help. Paula James, a tenant of a rent-stabilized apartment, was in tears.  “We are feeling all the hardships," she said. "Not the landlords." Board members who supported a rent freeze said landlords have been allowed to raise rent more than they've needed to. Mayor de Blasio said a freeze would have rectified "the mistakes of the past." Marty Goodman, a retired transit worker on a fixed income, said the board missed an opportunity to make history with a first-ever rent freeze. “I'm in a rent-regulated apartment, but my rent is going up much more than my pension and social security is going up,” he said. This hike is lower than previous years. Last year the board approved a four-percent hike. And tenant Vivian Burns says residents are more motivated than ever now.  “This is not yet the end of our fight.”

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Comments [3]

LB from Brooklyn

I was never able to afford to live in Manhattan but couldn't find a rent stabilized apartment. So I moved to Brooklyn - before it was the coolest place on earth. My neighborhood was affordable and diverse. I got 2 bedrooms for what my friends paid for a tiny studio in Manhattan. I have friends that stayed in their rent stabilized apartments for years and years - long after their family size had outgrown the space, but they refused to give up the privileged rent and the privilege of living in the 212 area code. I feel sorry for them because the quality of their lives suffered for the sake of hanging on to their apartments. They could all have moved into another borough where quality and standard of living would have jumped, but they were so hung up on having the hard-to-come by rent stabilized Manhattan apartments. Seems a real shame. As for the landlords, why shouldn't they get increases that run in sync with inflation and the cost of living? Don't their costs rise too? They pay for heating and hot water, real estate taxes, water bills, upkeep and repairs, all kinds of city assessments tenants have no knowledge of and so on. If they can't raise rents, they can't give their employees (the superintendents, porters etc.) raises. Repairs will fall off, buildings will deteriorate and everyone's quality of life will suffer. As for catching up with the past mistakes, remember that the landlords invested huge amounts of money just to purchase the buildings - they didn't get them for free. The bought them in a competitive market. Like paying for a college education, the benefits don't always come until years later. I imagine many landlords have yet to break even on the investments we're living in. There are many sides to the story.

Jun. 24 2014 07:47 PM
Gary from Greenwich Village

Sure, landlords are losing money on rent stabilized apartments but those are crocodile tears. There are so few of those left that they barely weigh on their operating costs. And while those same landlords lose a little on that inventory they are whacking newer tenants with exorbitant "market" rents as those rent-stabilized apartments leave the system with every tenant move-out and every gut rehab.

Jun. 24 2014 12:14 PM
JC from Brooklyn

Of course, this is a little misleading. If inflation proceeds at at least 1%, this is still a rent freeze.

Any economist will tell you that these kind of misguided price controls are a bad idea. And not just for the landlords. They're terrible for tenants, reducing the quantity and quality and availability of housing, and thereby increasing the price of market rate housing far above where it would otherwise be.

We learned this lesson long ago. It's time to grow up and learn from the mistakes of the past. If you want to help the poor, give them money to spend on the housing of their choice, preferably through something like the negative income tax. Do not distort the market through price control. It will only backfire.

Jun. 24 2014 08:25 AM

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