Twenty-one City Council members are pushing a board to reduce rents for the city’s one million rent-stabilized tenants.
They want the Rent Guidelines Board to go beyond last year’s first-ever rent freeze and enact a rent rollback when it votes at the end of June.
The board has already voted to consider increases between 0% — a rent freeze — and 2%, making a rent reduction unlikely. But tenants want that option back on the table for the final vote, a position nearly two dozen Council pols are now supporting. They are suggesting a reduction of 1% to 4%.
“This year, striking a fair balance for tenants and landlords means voting for a rent rollback,” they wrote in a letter authored by Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan). The rollback is justified because the costs borne by landlords, the measure the board uses to set its annual increases, have actually gone down, they said.
The so-called Price Index of Operating Costs came in at a negative 1.2%, largely because of a drop in fuel costs.
On top of that, they say, mortgage interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in decades, while landlords’ net operating income has gone up.
“All of these data points show that a rent rollback is feasible, warranted, logical, and fair,” they wrote. “We are suffering from the highest rent burdens ever recorded. ... Past rent increases have far outstripped both landlords’ operating costs and tenants’ spending powers. The injustice has not only placed undue burden on New York residents, but has also contributed to the loss of an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 rent-stabilized units over the past 20 years. It exacerbates our city’s current affordable housing crisis.”
The nine-member board is appointed by Mayor de Blasio, who has declined to weigh in on what it should do this year.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito backs a rent freeze.
Landlords say they should get an increase despite the drop in costs because they believe the cost index is misleading.