Who Cares if the Rent Guidelines Board Doesn’t Meet in the Outer Boroughs?

By Stephen Jacob Smith

Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is not happy that the Rent Guidelines Board, which decides rules on allowable rent hikes for stabilized apartments each year, has, citing poor attendance, stopped holding meetings outside of Manhattan.

“This arrangement all but assures the working people most affected by the board’s decision will be unable to participate, and their voices will have no bearing on the final rent increase decision,” Mr. de Blasio told The New York Times last week. “This is not a mere inconvenience—it is a downright failure of the democratic process.”

Mr. de Blasio’s complaint taps into two very powerful forces in New York City politics—outer borough resentment at being left out of Manhattan-centric decision making, and the pervasive feeling that the rent is too damn high. But is it justified?

Apartment buildings on the Grand Concourse are typical of New York City’s rent-stabilized housing stock: not actually all that rent-stabilized.

The fact is that the vast majority of rent stabilized apartments in the outer boroughs and Upper Manhattan are practically speaking not rent-stabilized. While they may be technically rent-stabilized, neighborhood prices fall far below the legal maximum rent, meaning that the annual increases are essentially meaningless.

“The working people most affected by the board’s decisions” are not in Queens or the Bronx, but in Manhattan.

Outside of the Manhattan core, brownstone Brooklyn and a few pockets in northern Brooklyn, the legally-regulated rents on apartments are actually higher than—in some cases, double or more—the market-rate rents that tenants are actually charged, which show up on lease agreements and monthly bills as “preferential” rates and credits. The RGB’s decision do affect the legally regulated maximum rents, but for the foreseeable future, most New York City tenants won’t pay rents anywhere near these limits.

When this reporter first moved to New York, for example, we were thrilled to find a rent-stabilized three-bedroom on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Only when we looked at the lease did we realize that the stabilized rate was a good 20 percent higher than the rate we were charged—meaning that any time, the landlord could hike the rent to the legal stabilized rate, effectively eliminating our protection against increases. (It used to be that landlords could only increase preferential rents by large amounts after a tenant left the unit, but as of 2003 that is no longer true.)

Maybe so, but outside of the ritzy parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, a Rent Guidelines Board rent freeze won’t have much of an impact.

And when, a year later, we moved two subway stops south, to a studio in a large, rent-stabilized building at Ocean and Church Avenues, the disconnect grew even greater: the legally regulated rent on this reporter’s $1,050-a-month studio is far more than twice what we’re charged—meaning that absent an unprecedented wave of gentrification sweeping across Haitian Flatbush and a more than doubling of market rents, the building is as good as unregulated. (The reason for the massive chasm between the preferential and regulated rents is that the neighborhood has declined precipitously since 1974, the year rent stabilization took effect.)

And it’s not just Flatbush—preferential rents are common in stabilized buildings throughout the outer boroughs (and one of our colleagues even had a preferential rate on her Yorkville studio, which she is being forced out of because the landlord is taking advantage of his ability to hike the rent come September).

While we couldn’t find any hard data on preferential rents in New York City, we’ve heard plenty of outer borough residents whose experiences echo our own: a $1,850 one-bedroom in Sunnyside whose regulated rate is 40 percent higher, a $1,000 two-bedroom in Kingsbridge with a regulated rent that’s more than 50 percent higher. We’ve even heard from someone in fast-gentrifying East Williamsburg who pays around $3,000 on an apartment whose maximum legal rent is $3,700.

This is not to say that people with preferential rents can never benefit from rent stabilization. We spoke to one affordable housing advocate this week who said that when he moved into his apartment on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn, the preferential rent was lower than the regulated rent, but they have since converged. And if the $3,000-a-month East Williamsburg renter sticks around for another few years, rent stabilization may eventually help him, too.

And if the Rent Guidelines Board took a sharp turn to the left and decided to freeze regulated rents every year for the next two decades, renters in Queens and the Bronx might some day see their preferential rents converge on the legally regulated maximum, and could find themselves paying lower-than-market rates.

But for now, if Mr. de Blasio thinks that outer borough renters deserve protections from rent hikes, he should address the issue of preferential rents, not grandstand about the lack of meetings outside of Manhattan. For those tenants, the Rent Guidelines Board’s decision have about as much relevance as they do for renters in Wyoming.

Source: New York Observer

Landlords, Tenants Face Off At Rent Guidelines Board Public Hearing

Proposal Would Allow 3% Increase For 1-Year Leases, 4.5% For 2-Year Leases

June 13, 2013 2:31 PM

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Rent Guidelines Board held a public hearing in lower Manhattan Thursday.

As WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reported, landlords were pitted against tenants and neither side was happy.

The rent board has proposed an increase on tenants of about a million rent-stabilized apartments.

Tenants hold signs at the Rent Guidelines Board public hearing, June 13, 2013. (credit: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

Under the proposal, a one-year lease could see a rent increase from 3.25 percent to 6.25 percent. A two-year lease could go up from 5 percent to 9.5 percent, according to the rent board.

Crown Heights building owner Constance Nugent-Miller said the proposed increases aren’t enough.

“Especially after Hurricane Sandy, how are we going to make our building safe? How are we going to protect those boilers from flood? It’s not going to be done for free,” she told Diamond.

“My taxes are 80 percent higher now than five years and my rent revenues have gone up less than 20 percent,” Washington Heights landlord Michael Vinocur told Diamond.

Susan Steinberg, who has a rent-stabilized apartment in Peter Cooper Village, said the cards are stacked against the tenants.

“This is a real problem. Many people are losing their homes and it’s just time for tenants to get a break,” Steinberg told Diamond.

Two Democratic candidates for mayor addressed the board at the hearing.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio both called for a rent freeze this year.

“You have raised rents throughout the crisis. It’s time to stop doing that and provide people relief,” de Blasio said.

The rent board approved increases of 2 percent for one-year renewals and 4 percent for two-year leases last year.

The hearing goes until 7 p.m. Thursday evening at the Emigrant Savings Bank Building located at 49-51 Chambers Street.

No public hearing will be held in Brooklyn, the Bronx or Queens this year, due to past poor attendance.

A final vote on the rent increase recommendations is scheduled for Thursday June 20.

Source: CBS New York

 

Rent Guidelines Board Holds Public Hearing On Rent Hikes

NY1 News Logo

By: NY1 News

The Rent Guidelines Board held another public meeting Thursday as it prepares to vote on rent increases for the city’s 1 million regulated apartments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The board is considering a hike of between 3.25 percent and 6.25 percent on one-year leases for rent-stabilized apartments.

Two-year leases could go up between 5 percent and 9.5 percent.

Thursday’s meeting brought out landlords who said they need the increase and tenants who maintained that New Yorkers cannot handle another hike.

“I’m here today to testify for a zero rent increase,” said Helen Rosenthal of Community Board 7. “If we don’t move forward in a way that stabilizes the middle-income families and working people, this city is truly going to become either for the rich or the very, very poorest.”

“The increasing rate of property taxes and water on especially the small landlords, it’s overwhelming us, it’s crushing us. And I’m here to ask for a really fair increase this year and not the pittance in which they usually give us,” said Constance Nugent-Miller, a landlord.

The board is expected to make its final vote next Thursday at Cooper Union.

 

Source: NY1

At Hearing, 3 Mayoral Candidates Advocate Rent Freeze

By MONA EL-NAGGAR

Kathleen Jones, with a Bronx community group, cried at a public hearing in Manhattan while talking about higher rent costs.

At the Rent Guidelines Board public hearing on Thursday, much of the theater and drama were as always: tenants insisting that the proposed increase at rent-stabilized apartments in New York City was far too high, and landlords complaining that it was far too low.

But with this being a mayoral election year, the hearing featured a few different actors.

Among those in attendance were three Democratic mayoral candidates,Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; and John C. Liu, the city comptroller. All three spoke in favor of imposing a rent freeze.

“It is time we finally consider the tenants,” Ms. Quinn said, arguing that owners have fared better than tenants over the course of the recession.

“Good luck on your campaign,” replied Steven J. Schleider, who represents property owners on the nine-member board.

“So you’re taking a position that government can dictate how much money or profit or return a private owner can have?” Mr. Schleider asked.

“We’re focused on the needs of tenants,” Ms. Quinn repeated.

Mr. Schleider shook his head.

Ms. Quinn shot back: “We’ve danced this dance before, we know who’s leading when, who’s following when, and at what point we go from waltz to fox trot.”

The audience broke out in laughter. Some cheered from the back of the room. One man waved his sign that read, “Justice for tenants.”

In a way, the gist of Ms. Quinn’s remark summed up Thursday’s hearing.

This year, the board has proposed an increase ranging from 3.25 percent to 6.25 percent for a one-year lease and 5 percent to 9.5 percent for a two-year lease. Last year, the board approved an increase of 2 percent for a one-year lease and 4 percent for a two-year lease. An additional supplement, which tenant advocates refer to as the “poor tax,” would impose a higher increase in rent for those tenants who live in a rent-stabilized apartment and pay less than $1,000 a month.

Judith Seigel, an 83-year-old artist who owns an 1835 brownstone on Morton Street in the West Village, said her property tax had doubled to about $40,000 over the last decade. And while she said the Village had become more often populated by “movie stars than artists,” it is still her home.

“My husband would come home from his job as a buyer in training at Bloomingdale’s, hang his clothes and lay bricks and scrape paint until midnight,” Ms. Seigel said. “Back then, we could never imagine that World War II emergency rent controls would last beyond 1984, much less 2001. And now it’s 2013.”

Mr. de Blasio criticized the board for holding only one public hearing; since 2005, a second hearing has been traditionally held in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens. “By not holding a single hearing in the outer boroughs, the board has marginalized the voices of more than 700,000 renters who face the prospect of higher rents,” Mr. de Blasio said. The board’s solitary hearing “is not just an inconvenience; it’s an outright failure of democracy.”

Mr. Liu called for a one-year moratorium on rent increases.

The board will reconvene next Thursday to vote on the proposed increases.

“It feels like the two sides come from alternate universes, that they are living in different realities,” said Harvey Epstein, another board member who sits on the opposite side of the hearing table from Mr. Schleider. “We have to hear the two sides and try to find some balance.”

Source: New York Times

All the politicians are standing up for tenants at the RGB. Owners need to stand up for themselves. Register now to testify.

Christine C. Quinn, Speaker, NYC Council

 

Dear New Yorker,

Last month, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) adopted a proposed range of increases for NYC rent stabilized apartments: between 3.25% to 6.25% for 1-year leases and 5% to 9.5% for 2-year leases.

If approved, these increases will negatively impact millions of low- and middle-class New Yorkers, many of whom are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy and pay more than 50% of their income in rent.  That’s why this year we’re once again calling for a rent freeze.

Unfortunately, the RGB has only scheduled one public hearing before their final vote this year – and it’s in Manhattan, mainly during working hours, which will make it extremely difficult for folks, especially in the outer boroughs, to attend and testify.  Additional details below:

  • Thursday, June 13, 2013, Public Hearing (Public Testimony), Emigrant Savings Bank Building, 49-51 Chambers Street (between Broadway and Centre Street), New York, NY 1007, starting at 10 AM
  • Thursday, June 20, 2013, Public Meeting (Final Vote), The Great Hall at Cooper Union, 7 East 7th Street (at corner of Third Avenue), Basement, New York, NY 10003, starting at 5:30 PM

These rent increases will affect ALL of our neighborhoods, so it’s important not to let this deter us and to make every effort to ensure that our voices are heard.

Tenants and advocates have requested that an additional outer borough hearing be scheduled during the evening hours – but, so far, the Board has refused to do so.

 

In response, Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and other tenant advocacy groups are hosting their own unofficial RGB hearing in the Bronx next Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at the New Settlement Community Center, located at 1501 Jerome Avenue and 172nd Street, starting at 5:30 PM.

Given the RGB’s decision to forgo outer borough hearings, we wanted to help CASA and its partners get the word out and encourage folks to attend.

More importantly, we want to urge everyone, if at all possible, to testify at the RGB’s public hearing on June 13th.  If taking time off from work, school and/or family isn’t an option, you can submit your views in writing instead by addressing them to the Chairman, or any Board member, c/o the NYC Rent Guidelines Board, 51 Chambers St., Suite 202, New York, NY 10007 or by email at chair@nycrgb.org.

Additional information about this year’s rent guidelines process can be found on the RGB’s website at www.nycrgb.org.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Christine C. Quinn

Speaker

NYC Council

Rent Guidelines Board Holds Public Hearing To Discuss Propose Increases

NY1 News Logo

By: NY1 News

 

The annual fight over rent increases for the city’s one million regulated apartments is nearing a conclusion.

The Rent Guidelines Board held a public hearing in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, the latest in a series of hearings to discuss proposed increases voted upon last month.

Those increases are between 3.25 and 6.25 percent on one-year leases and between 5 and 9.5 percent for two-year leases.

Tenants say they cannot afford yet another hike, while landlords say they are necessary to keep up with costs.

“There are more subsidized housing units available in this city than there are impoverished tenants. If that doesn’t work out, then there’s something wrong with the way the city is administering its housing subsidy programs,” said Jack Freund, the executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association. “If you place that burden on property owners, you’re just going to see an inability to maintain properties for a majority of people who can afford a moderate rent increase.”

“Right now my apartment is right on the border of being unaffordable and this would really push it over the edge,” said housing advocate Sam Stein. “I think that’s the case for thousands of tenants around the city.”

The board says more than 2,500 previously stabilized units were removed from regulations last year.

The final vote on the rent hikes is June 20.

Bill de Blasio Is Actually Not Cool With Rent Increases

 

By Ross Barkan

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio would like everyone to know that, despite a report indicating otherwise, in his view, the rent is actually too damn high.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The confusion began when the New York Post reported today that Mr. de Blasio, one of the most liberal candidates in the mayors race, was opposed to freezing rents on rent-stabilized properties. The story quoted a de Blasio aide expressing the public advocate’s concern about the potential impact on small landlords, and reported that he had not called on the Rent Guidelines Board to keep rents from increasing. All of his Democratic rivals had made such a call.

However, Mr. de Blaso, probably unhappy about being labeled the “unexpected new champion” of landlords, blasted out a statement later in the morning that blamed a spokesperson for having “mischaracterized” his position on rent increases. He said he actually believes just the opposite.

“At a time when nearly half of our city’s residents are living in or near poverty, we cannot continue to put additional financial burdens on poor and working New Yorkers,” Mr. de Blasio said in the  statement. “The Rent Guidelines Board must freeze rent increases when it meets next month. And I renew my call for the RGB to hold hearings in the five boroughs, instead of its one planned meeting in Manhattan. If the RGB’s members could hear directly from the people, as I have, they would know we cannot place additional hardships on renters in New York.”

The spokesman, Wiley Norvell, subsequently told Politicker that the mix-up had been entirely his fault and not his boss’s.

“It was my miscommunication,” he said. “I was unclear of the position he had taken. The mistake was on me.”

 

Source: Politicker

It’s that time of year again…

The Riverdale Press

May 30, 2012

City proposes latest round of rent hikes
By Adam Wisnieski

 

It’s that time of year again.

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board has proposed its hike for rent-stabilized apartments, but this one may not be as big as in years’ past.

This year’s proposed increase for one-year renewal leases is between 1.75 and 4 percent and 3.5 to 6.75 percent for two-year leases. Last year, the Rent Guidelines Board set increases at a maximum of 3.75 percent for one-year leases and 7.25 percent for two-year leases.

The Rent Guidelines Board will hold public hearings on the increase in June.

The increase, if passed, will affect leases that expire between Monday, October 1, 2012 and Monday, September 30, 2013.

Riverdalian Mickey Gensler of the Skyview Tenants Association said he represents approximately 200 rent-stabilized renters at Skyview in North Riverdale and many of them, like him, are seniors who live on a fixed income. He opposes the proposed increase.

“When there is a bad winter there is a raise, when there is a mild winter there is a raise. They manage to raise rents almost to the maximum every time,” said Mr. Gensler.

Not everyone agrees with Mr. Gensler.

One small organization, New York City Renters Alliance, wants to reform the city’s housing market and phase out rent-regulated apartments because they argue they’re unfair for new renters. The group, made up of market-rate renters, argues the truly needy, like seniors living on fixed incomes, should benefit from subsidies, but that well-off New Yorkers should not get to pay a fraction of the market rate.

The Bronx public hearing will take place on Wednesday, June 13 at the Repertory Theatre of Hostos Community College, located at 450 Grand Concourse, at 4:30 p.m. Written comments can be sent to RGB at 51 Chambers St., Suite 202, New York, N.Y. 10007 or sent by fax to 212-385-2554 or e-mailed to board@nycrgb.org. Written testimony must be received by Monday, June 18.

After hearing testimony from the five boroughs, the board will meet on Thursday, June 21 in Manhattan to adopt the final hike.

 

Source: The Riverdale Press