Manhattan Council Members Push for Rent Freeze: Council Members Testify in Support of Rent Freeze at Manhattan Hearing of the Rent Guidelines Board

Manhattan Council Members Push for Rent Freeze

Council Members Testify in Support of Rent Freeze at Manhattan Hearing of the Rent Guidelines Board

New York, NY – New York tenants need a rent freeze. That was the message from the City Council today at the Manhattan hearing of the Rent Guidelines Board, as the Board moves closer to its June 23rd vote on rents for rent stabilized apartments. Council Members Ben Kallos, Dan Garodnick, Margaret Chin, Corey Johnson, Ydanis Rodriguez, Mark Levine, and Helen Rosenthal all called for New York City’s first ever rent freeze, arguing that for too long the Board had overrepresented landlords’ interests.

The members testifying today join a broad coalition of tenants, community organizations, advocacy and legal-aid groups, and other elected officials who are hopeful that the Board will make history this year with a rent freeze after years of favoring landlord interests under the Bloomberg Administration, they say. The goal of a rent freeze was supported by Mayor de Blasio during his campaign.

Council Member Ben Kallos said in his testimony, “Our City needs a rent freeze now. Rent increases have far outpaced inflation. In order for inflation to catch up with current rents, we need a rent freeze for this year and years to come.”

“The safety and security that rent-stabilized housing provides has been under a persistent threat, and these tenants are in need of relief,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick in his testimony. 

“At this point, proposing any rent increases will further endanger our city’s affordability and New Yorkers’ ability to remain here,” said Council Member Margaret Chin in her testimony. “Whenever we threaten the affordability of our city, we threaten the economic vitality and vibrancy of a place that has long been home to artists, entrepreneurs, seniors and working class families.”

Council Member Corey Johnson said: “Over the past decade, the Rent Guidelines Board has overcompensated landlords to the detriment of tenants. This massive increase in owner income occurred as tenant incomes declined, housing affordability deepened, and homelessness in our city skyrocketed. The RGB today must freeze rents for rent-stabilized tenants and set this city upon a corrective course.”

“There is a direct correlation between Rent Guidelines Board increases, the loss of affordable housing, and the growing homeless shelter population in New York. Last year nearly thirty-thousand families were evicted from their homes. This figure is steadily rising and causing thousands of housing units to become subject to vacancy decontrol. Shelters have consequently swelled to crisis levels and are costing our City millions more than simply helping tenants afford to stay in their homes. We are reaching the tipping point where too many renters in my district cannot survive another increase. A rent freeze is the only responsible option this year,” said Council Member Mark Levine.

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said: “New Yorkers are suffering under oppressive rents, forcing many to move away from neighborhoods where they have lived their entire lives. If we want to preserve historic communities in this city, we need to keep people in their homes. I implore the Rent Guidelines Board to vote for a rent freeze on rent stabilized and controlled apartments, as we cannot keep pushing residents away. Affordable housing is dwindling and this is one of the few ways we can preserve this vital resource.”

“It is clear to me that the historic annual rent increases created a rent-burden crisis that has spiraled out of control.  This Board must take the necessary measures to address the disappearance of our affordable housing stock and take a firm stance to help tenants stay in their homes. Over ten percent of the loss of rent stabilized homes citywide has occurred on the UWS,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

The steady loss of rent-stabilized units, one of the City’s primary affordable housing resources, is mostly due to high rent vacancy deregulation. Raising rents places enormous burden for tenants currently in their apartment and contributes to the overall loss of affordable housing. The city has lost 104,155 rent stabilized units in the past twenty years.1

Today’s hearing was the second of four public hearings the Board will hold as it deliberates over the rent levels. The hearings follow a May 5 meeting at which the Board voted to consider rent increases from 0% to 3% for one-year leases and 0.5% to 4.5% for two-year leases. The final vote will be held on June 23 at Cooper Union.

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Testimony from Council Member Kallos:

"I am calling on the Rent Guidelines Board to vote for a 0% rent increase for 1-year leases and a 0% rent increase for 2-year leases. I am calling for a rent freeze to correct the course of extremely high rent increases of past years, the current environment of an affordability crisis plaguing our city, and the data produced by the Rent Guidelines Board.

Since 2008, tenants have experienced high rent increase that have led to an increased rent burden. There are currently the highest rent burdens ever recorded; the average amount of rent paid by stabilized tenants has increased to 34.9% of household incomes.  Over a third of all rent stabilized households pay more than 50 % of their income towards rent . Rent Guidelines Board increases are not the only means by which rent is raised. Rent increases between 2008-2013 including Rent Guidelines Board increases, vacancy bonuses, and Major Capital Improvement increases have been on average 5% . This has contributed enormously to the affordability crisis gripping this city and my district. This year, with new board members, I am hopeful that there will be an incorporation of the issues facing tenants in the determinations leading to the final increase, and that will lead to a needed historic decision for a rent freeze.

The Rent Guidelines Board consistently shows data of the Net Operating Income increasing for owners.  The NOI has increased for the 8th consecutive year and this year by 9.6%.   In Manhattan, the take home dollar amount of the NOI is $704 per unit.  For the low and moderate income tenants in my district, they can't afford a rent increase and have been barely affording the past increases. 

The steady loss of rent-stabilized units, one of our most precious housing resources, is mostly due to high rent vacancy deregulation. Raising rents is both an enormous burden for tenants currently in their apartment and contributes to the overall loss of affordable housing. The city had lost 104,155 rent stabilized units in the past twenty years . The board should take into consideration the effect of this enormous loss on the city as a whole. 

The time is now for a rent freeze for my district and for all of New York City's rent-stabilized tenants. Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify."