Tenants rally at Rent Guidelines Board’s first meeting

03/30/2017

Tenants rally at Rent Guidelines Board’s first meeting


NEW YORK — Today, the Rent Justice Coalition — including tenants, advocates and community organizers — and elected officials held a rally outside of the Rent Guideline Board’s first meeting, in front of the Manhattan Municipal Building. The group launched a campaign to demand that the Rent Guideline Board reduce rents for tenants in rent stabilized apartments.

The rally followed this week’s ruling by a New York State judge, which upholds the rent freeze freeze on one-year leases that was passed by the Rent Guidelines Board last year. (See: Rent Stabilization Association vs Rent Guidelines Board.) The ruling impacts more than a million residents of rent stabilized apartments in New York City. However, it does not address the need for even more affordable housing.

Forty-three percent of people in shelters came from rent stabilized apartments. The median gross rent to income ratio was 36.4 percent in 2014 — with a third of tenants paying more than half of their income. Increasingly, tenants are taking two-year leases, which means the rent freeze does not apply to their apartments.

While tenants face rising cost, landlords have been raking in more money and paying less for expenses. Property resale prices are up; rent revenue is up, and foreclosures are low — even with the rent freeze.

Quotes from tenants, elected officials and advocates:

“The rent freeze on one-year leases has been a great blessing and relief to hundreds of thousands of New York City tenants.  We still believe, however, that a rent rollback needs to happen this year to make up for the many years of large, underserved rent increases for landlords that have contributed to displacement and evictions, as well as growing numbers of tenants who pay more than 50% of their income in rent, “ said Delsenia Glover of Tenants and Neighbors.

“Despite yesterday’s court decision, too many New Yorkers are still forced to choose between a roof over their heads and basic needs like food. Every day, we see more and more families forced out of their rent stabilized apartments and into homeless shelters. We can and must do more to make rents more affordable,” said Harvey Epstein, director of the the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center and a Rent Guidelines Board member.

"Landlords don't take care of buildings or provide services; they hit buildings with MCI's to try to push us out. I understand the reality of doing business, but that's an egregious act that abuses hard working Bronxites. These landlords are taking advantage of those who are most vulnerable. But I believe that housing is not a privilege, it's a universal right. The Bronx is home for a lot of people. This is my home and if I move out, where am I going to go," said Sergio Cuevas of the Bronx.

“The vast majority of landlords of rent stabilized SRO hotels and apartment buildings are doing quite well, while far too many tenants have very high rent burdens. Data and facts from reports and studies commissioned by the RGB fully document this and tenants actually deserve a rent roll back. Owning rent stabilized housing remains very profitable in NYC.” said Anne Cunningham, Tempo Hotel tenant at 240 W. 73rd Street.

“When 43 percent of New Yorkers in homeless shelters are coming from rent stabilized apartments, it's clear that the affordable housing crisis is impacting even those who are supposedly protected. The historic rent freezes set by the Rent Guidelines Board the last two years represent great progress, but we must do more to address this crisis and institute a rollback for 1 and 2 year rent stabilized leases, especially as owners continue to profit. We have a duty to ensure that all New Yorkers are able to remain in their homes,” said Councilmember Helen Rosenthal.

“With one third of New York City tenants paying more than half of their income towards rent, I am proud to join the call for a rent rollback this year. The 2.5 million rent regulated tenants in this city deserve relief from the damage done by decades of unjustified past increases. For years now tenants in this city have faced record levels of displacement, an epidemic of evictions, and rents that go nowhere but up. It’s time to reverse that trend with a rollback,” said Councilmember Mark Levine.

"The rent freezes have begun to correct decades of rent increases given to landlords even when there was no inflation year after year. New York's 1 million rent-stabilized tenants deserve the rent freezes after years of rent increases that outpaced the consumer price index," said Councilmember Ben Kallos.

“With a rent rollback, the RGB can turn the tide of affordability in our City and bring much needed relief to millions of tenants who are living paycheck to paycheck. The recent rent freezes have been important steps in the right direction, but only a rent rollback for both one and two year leases will provide the economic relief that rent-stabilized New Yorkers desperately need," said Councilmember Corey Johnson.

“For decades the Board refused to  ask the fundamental question of whether people should be paying more before they asked the question of how much. For two historic years that changed and the results were a fair assessment that eluded too many for too long.  I want to encourage everyone to remain vigilant and continue to advocate to make New York City truly affordable for its residents,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams.

“The Rent Guidelines Board’s decision to freeze rents was a positive move, but we must do more to ease the burden on the thousands of rent-regulated tenants who are struggling to make ends meet. That is why I am repeating my call for the Board to roll-back rents for New Yorkers who have absorbed most of the rising costs of living and doing business in our City – all while landlords have seen their profits rise, foreclosures plummet, and resale prices go up. I thank the Rent Justice Coalition and my Progressive Caucus colleagues for joining me in this important effort to roll-back rents on 1- and 2-year leases,” said Councilmember Margaret  S. Chin.

"The Rent Stabilization Association’s frivolous lawsuit is a slap in the face to working-class New Yorkers across the City who are simply struggling to both pay rent and put food on the table. As the RSA quibbles over a rent freeze on one-year leases, after years of collecting unwarranted and unaffordable increases, real New Yorkers are staving off eviction one rent payment at a time,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF- Manhattan). “How the RSA can continue to cry poverty when landlords’ fuel and utility costs decreased by 41.2% and 0.3% is beyond me and all the advocates who continue to fight to protect the City’s affordable housing stock. The RSA is welcome to entertain and peddle their alternative facts to all those who choose to listen, but the truth of the matter is that a rent freeze is not enough to offset years of financial hardship borne by tenants from outrageous and unjustified rent increases. This is nothing more than a classic case of big interests with deep pockets looking to trample the little guy. Judge Debra James’ decision to uphold the City’s rent freeze is a godsend to all those who continue to struggle with rising rents and stagnant incomes, and I look forward to continue fight for tenants’ rights in this year’s annual RGB debate,” said Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal

About the Rent Justice Coalition:

 

Who We Are

We are a group of legal services, organizing, advocacy and tenants’ groups that join together to push the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) to use data and reason to pass more equitable and pro-tenant rent adjustments.

 

Why We Fight

Our fight helps protect the rents, homes and lives of over two million New Yorkers living in an estimated one million rent-stabilized apartments.

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