NY1: Rent Guidelines Board votes to freeze rents for six months, then hike rents after

A crowd watched on a projector as the Rent Guidelines Board voted 5-4 to freeze rents for the first six months of one-year leases, then allow landlords of rent-stabilized apartments to increase rent by 1.5% for the last six months. Two-year leases could see a 2.5% increase.

Pilar DeJesus was among the activists to gather in Cooper Square Wednesday and protest new rent hikes.

DeJesus, who works as the senior advocacy coordinator at TakeRoot Justice, said her clients cannot afford a rent increase.

“As a person who also lost some of my income because we all had to take a little bit of furlough, it’s heartbreaking because I see the instability that exists in this city,” said DeJesus.

The Rent Guidelines Board considers rent adjustments for the city’s roughly one million rent-stabilized apartments. Members representing landlords argued a large rent hike is needed to deal with increased operating costs. Last year, the board voted to keep rents flat for one-year leases.

“If our rent increases don’t even cover inflation, we are decreasing operating budgets, forcing housing providers to cut back on services, it’s not a good recipe for anyone who supports a healthy housing stock,” said owner member Robert Ehrlich.

The board’s hearings have been virtual since COVID-19 hit, standing in stark contrast to the pre-pandemic ones, which typically drew large, in-person crowds.

Some tenant advocates decided to watch the hearing in the East Village, near where the vote would normally take place. Members representing tenants argued people are struggling to pay their rent as it is.

“I think it’s an injustice. I think we’re gonna see homelessness continue to skyrocket and people continue to not be able to afford New York,” said tenant member Sheila Garcia.

Vito Signorile of the Rent Stabilization Association, the group that represents thousands of landlords, said any increase cannot compensate for the losses landlords have dealt with.

“Unfortunately, there are some tenants out there that are basically telling their building owner, ‘I don’t have to pay rent, so I’m not going to,’ and frankly for a building owner, if they’re not receiving the rent, their property taxes, their water bills are still due,” he said.

The increases will impact tenants for leases starting on or after October 1 of this year.