It is not news that Bill de Blasio, then New York City Public Advocate, began endorsing a rent freeze in the summer of 2013 while campaigning to become Mayor. If it were not for RSA’s maneuvers behind the scenes in 2014, the City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) would have most likely approved the City’s first ever rent freeze in Mayor de Blasio’s first year of office. In 2015, however, with all nine members of the Board appointed by Mayor de Blasio, a rent freeze was inevitable.
Prior to the 2015 RGB process, Mayor de Blasio publicly endorsed a rent freeze on several occasions. Leading into the Final Vote on June 30th, Mayor de Blasio remained quiet, but applauded the RGB after the Board voted in favor of no rent increases. At the beginning of October, the de Blasio Administration launched a $1 million ad campaign promoting the rent freeze that went into effect on October 1st. With City taxpayer dollars funding the ad campaign, RSA blasted Mayor de Blasio for promoting the rent freeze that was supposedly approved by an “independent board.” Rather than dedicating the $1 million to aiding the homeless or contributing to rent subsidies for those in need of assistance, the Mayor opted to promote his own political platform.
After much criticism, Mayor de Blasio held his first “town hall” style meeting after nearly two years into his mayoralty. The meeting was held at a public school in Washington Heights and was dubbed by many reporters as “political propaganda” after the Mayor seemed to stack the meeting with handpicked tenant advocates to focus on rent security and tenant protection. Attendees of the meeting were invites only, with tickets distributed by allies of Mayor de Blasio.
The media has caught on to Mayor de Blasio’s early re-election campaign rally. He has stripped away any pretense that the RGB is an independent Board and in many ways, he is now taking the credit for the rent freeze enacted by the RGB. The RSA is trying to work with Mayor de Blasio and his administration to educate them on how his affordable housing plan could be a successful one. If Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing agenda is being driven by sound policy rather than politics, he would be embracing the biggest providers of affordable housing in the five boroughs – the owners of 1 million rent-stabilized apartments.