NYC rent board approves steepest hikes since Bloomberg era

Roughly 2.4 million New York City tenants will face the biggest rent hikes they’ve seen in nearly a decade after the Rent Guidelines Board approved the increases in a split vote Tuesday night at Cooper Union.

The panel of nine mayoral appointees — which determines rent adjustments for approximately one million rent-stabilized apartments — voted 5 to 4 to increase rents by 3.25% for one-year leases, and 5% for two-year leases. The rates fell within the middle of ranges approved by the board last month and represent the biggest jump in stabilized rents since Mike Bloomberg was mayor.

Landlords had pushed for even steeper increases, arguing that building maintenance and insurance costs have surged. And after eight years of small or no increases under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, owners say they can no longer afford to keep their buildings in good repair.

“It’s not in pace with what it should have been,” said Brian Liff, the owner of a single brownstone in Harlem, after the vote. “It’s just scratching the surface on what the statistics dictate actually should have been.”

Tenant groups and advocates called for rent freezes or even rollbacks at a series of public hearings and rallies leading up to Tuesday’s vote, pointing to the rising cost of living in New York City, and already subpar building conditions.

“We are facing a recession, we are still in a pandemic, we cannot afford 4 to 6% increases in our rent,” said Joanne Grell with the group Community Action for Safe Apartments, prior to the vote. “Now is not the time to destroy families, to increase homelessness and to get people in communities out of their homes.”

Under de Blasio, the board kept rent increases at historic lows, never surpassing 1.5% for one-year leases and 2.75% for two-year leases in a given year. During the first year of the pandemic, the board kept rents flat. Tuesday’s vote was the first under Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, and set the tone for a more landlord-friendly era.

Tenants chanted throughout the proceedings inside the Great Hall where the vote took place. As renters spoke, the crowd listened and cheered — as owners spoke, they booed.

When the final vote came, tenants turned their backs to the board members on stage, holding some signs that read, “Stop increasing our rents” up to the TV cameras in the back of the room. They chanted “fight, fight, fight, housing in a human right,” and used whistles to drown out the final vote being read.

After the proceeding, tenants told Gothamist they fear they’ll be forced out of their homes and ultimately out of the city.

“There are some people who might not be able to stay in their apartments at all,” said Sarah Lazur, a rent-stabilized tenant in Crown Heights. “I don’t know where they can go — it’s not like there’s somewhere cheaper to go because the unstabilized rents have been going up massively.”

The city’s median rent on unregulated apartments is up 28 percent in the last year, to $3,200, according to StreetEasy. The “good cause” eviction bill — which would have given market rate tenants similar rights to rent-stabilized ones, and protected against the kind of steep increases currently affecting many tenants — failed to pass through the state Legislature this year.

Adams, a landlord himself, campaigned on a more business-friendly mayoralty than his predecessor. Within minutes of the vote concluding, he issued a statement.

“The determination made by the Rent Guidelines Board today will unfortunately be a burden to tenants at this difficult time — and that is disappointing,” the mayor said. “At the same time, small landlords are at risk of bankruptcy because of years of no increases at all, putting building owners of modest means at risk while threatening the quality of life for tenants who deserve to live in well-maintained, modern buildings. ”

Gwynne Hogan contributed reporting.

This story has been updated with additional comment.

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