Rent Guidelines Board turns down historic rent freeze
by Jess Berry
Jun 25, 2014 | 164 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tenants erupted in anger and stormed the stage where members of the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) sat after they voted 5-4 to shoot down a proposed rent freeze for tenants who live in stabilized apartments.

Security guards held back the crowd on Monday night as they chanted, “No rent freeze, no peace.” Rents will be allowed to increase by one percent for one-year leases and 2.75 percent for two-year leases.

Landlords were not happy either, as this marks the lowest-ever rent increase in the board’s history. They were hoping for a six percent increase for a one-year lease and a 9.5 percent increase for a two-year lease.

Had the board voted in favor of the rent freeze, it would have been the first time in its 45-year history.

At a public meeting in Brooklyn Borough Hall last Wednesday, tenants held up signs calling for a zero percent increase and numerous residents got up and spoke about their struggles to pay rent.

Jennifer Atchin, a Brooklyn resident, said she was kicked out of her apartment due to “uninhabitable living conditions,” because her landlord refused to update the freezing, filthy building.

“These are not conditions for any human being to live in,” she said. “I urge to approve a zero percent increase because safe, affordable homes are not too much to ask for.”

Ten-year-old Ruben Rojas-Salvador got up and spoke eloquently about the struggles his father faces in paying the rent for their apartment.

“I can see that my dad is getting frustrated. He’s stressed. He doesn’t want to play with me. I just feel alone,” the little boy said. “What they don’t see is that they’re ruining our future. That’s how I feel, because my parents are trying to save money for my school, but instead someone screwed it up. Mayor de Blasio, it’s your choice, make the rent freeze or ruin our future.”

Meanwhile, landlords complained that without a rent increase, maintaining apartments would lead to a no-profit situation for the owners.

“Is NYCHA the way we want to run this city? Is that the housing these people want to live in? I don’t think so,” Christopher Aphanos, who owns 150 apartments, said. “These tenants would love to live in a building like mine, or owners like me, and you’re pushing owners over the edge. It’s just unfair.”

Mayor bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James supported the rent freeze, but to no avail.

“New York should be a place everyone can afford to live,” James said before the board voted. “Rent increases have allowed landlords to maintain high operating incomes while tenants’ incomes have stagnated.”

Last year, building owners saw their net operating income increase by 9.6 percent, making it the eighth straight year they have seen growing profits. There was also a four percent and 7.75 percent rent increase for one and two-year leases respectively in 2013.

The rent increase will apply to rent-stabilized apartments beginning on Oct. 1 of 2014 through Sept. 30, 2015.

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