NYC Board for First Time Freezes Rents On One-Year Leases

NEW YORK (AP) -

New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board took an unprecedented step last week, voting for the first time to freeze rents on one-year leases for tenants in rent-stabilized apartments.

The vote came before a crowd of jubilant tenants and advocates, who cheered when it became clear the proposal would pass. Landlord groups were disappointed, noting that costs go up for them and it is unfair they can’t pass it along.

The board voted to increase rents on two-year leases by 2 percent.

The city has more than 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, accommodating more than 2 million people.

Karen Smith, who lives with her grandmother in a rent-stabilized apartment in the Bronx, called the decision “amazing.”

“This is necessary for people to just live in New York City,” she said.

Both measures apply to leases renewed between Oct. 1 of this year and Sept. 30, 2016.

The board has nine members. Two represent tenants, two represent owners and five are members of the public. Owner representative Sara Williams Willard voted against the proposal, saying, “This is myopic, it’s biased.” The other owner representative also voted against it.

Chairwoman Rachel Godsil said the board had considered data that showed building owners were doing okay, but tenants were struggling to keep their rents affordable.

Current board members were picked by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who praised their decision.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, said any rent freeze needed to be met with property tax and utilities relief.

“I think a zero percent increase would be harder on the tenants because it’s going to be even harder, much harder, for the owners to put money back into the properties,” said Aaron Sirulnick, chairman of the association. “It’s hard to imagine a zero percent revenue increase will help anybody in this process.”