Bringing a rancorous process to a close, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board voted 5-4 to increase rents 3% for one-year apartment leases. For two-year leases, the board voted to increase rents 2.75% the first year and 3.2% the second year.
The vote allows landlords to raise rents for the roughly 2 million rent-stabilized tenants in the city starting this fall. Last year, the Rent Guidelines Board approved increases of 3.25% for one-year leases and 5% for two-year leases.
Anticipating rent increases, tenant advocates filled seats at Hunter College on Wednesday night, chanting over the board’s discussion with calls of “rent rollback.” The front rows of the auditorium were cordoned off to keep protesters away from members of the board sitting on the stage.
The allowable increases approved on Wednesday night will go into effect on Oct. 1. The mayor is responsible for appointing the members of the Rent Guidelines Board, which includes nine members – two representing tenant interests, two representing owner interests, and five representing the general public. There are still a couple members who were appointed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio finishing out their terms, but six of the current members are appointees of Mayor Eric Adams.
Progressive city lawmakers have aggressively opposed rent hikes of any kind, calling for rent freezes or decreases amid a housing affordability crisis. In May, when the Rent Guidelines Board met to approve a preliminary range of possible increases, tenant advocates and several City Council members repeatedly interrupted the meeting with chants of “rent rollbacks” and “shame on you” directed at the board, and eventually stormed the stage, forcing the meeting to pause. (Security guards hovered around the stage at Wednesday night’s meeting, warding off a similar action.)
But it’s not just the farthest left members of the council that have warned against increases. In a letter ahead of Wednesday night’s final vote, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams called on the Rent Guidelines Board to avoid approving rent increases as high as what is in the preliminary range. Last month, the board indicated they would raise rents 2-5% for one-year apartment leases and 4-7% for two-year apartment leases. “I urge the Board to acknowledge, through its decision at the upcoming June 21 vote, that New York City is facing a housing affordability crisis and limit rent increases,” Speaker Adams wrote. “The city already has a low affordable housing stock and another rent increase to rent stabilized apartments, especially after last year’s increase, will further diminish our affordable housing stock.”
Landlords have said that their operating costs are rising, and argue that the years of rent freezes and lower allowed increases under the de Blasio administration warrant higher increases today. Some landlords have called for much higher allowed increases than what was in the preliminary range. In a statement following the vote, the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, suggested even greater increases than the ones approved Wednesday night are needed. “The RBG ignored their own data and instead played to the intimidation of radical politicians and activists, depriving the largest providers of affordable housing of the revenue they need to keep up with skyrocketing costs,” Rent Stabilization Association President Joseph Strasburg said in the statement. “Tenants in economic distress have government programs to support them, while stabilized building owners – the private providers of a public benefit – are at the mercy of arbitrary politics instead of sound policy.”
Earlier in the night, the board members who represent owners proposed increases of 5% for one-year leases and 7% for two-year leases, and the proposal failed by a vote of 2 to 7. The board members who represent tenants made their own proposal – a rent freeze for one-year leases and 2% allowed increases for two-year leases – and it also failed by a vote of 2 to 7.
Though they voted in favor of the board’s final proposal, the members who represent tenants characterized it as necessary to avoid even higher allowed increases and urged advocates to continue protesting and advocating for tenant protections.
Winsome Pendergrass, an advocate and a certified nursing assistant, lives in a rent stabilized unit and said that the increases mean she’ll have to work more hours. “I am now thinking, ‘How many more 12-hour shifts can I do,” she told City & State. But Pendergrass said that she and others who showed up to protest the increases aren’t done advocating for tenants. “We’re not going to stop, we’re going to fight. The RGB is always going to see our faces and hear our voices because a change has got to come.”