New York’s biggest rent regulated landlord group has accused the city of using the ongoing pandemic crisis as an excuse to kick them when they’re down.
After the Rent Guidelines Board voted to freeze rents on one million apartments, Joe Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, said, “The RGB is conveniently using this ongoing pandemic crisis as an excuse to enact another politically-motivated guideline that will provide absolutely no real relief to tenants who are struggling in the present.
“The RGB is supposed to act independently of political influence, but politicians like Mayor de Blasio continue to interfere with the process and take the easy route instead of advocating for real rental relief from federal government assistance.”
In a solid indication it will freeze rents when it votes officially on June 17, the RGB took a preliminary vote last night and decided to freeze rents on one-year leases. Two-year leases will have a zero percent increase the first year and a one percent increase in the second year.
Tenant groups had been calling for a rent roll-back while the owner representatives on the board proposed increases between two and three percent on one-year leases and between 4.75 and 5.5 percent on two-year leases. They also proposed that for leases going into effect before next year, no rent increase would be collected prior to 2021.
Landlord member Patti Stone, said, “The owners need to pay their employees’ salaries, their real estate taxes, water and sewer taxes and their mortgages. The tenants who have unfortunately lost their jobs need to look to the government for aid.”
It is a call that has been echoed by the Real Estate Board of New York. President James Whelan said last week, “What’s needed is an emergency rental assistance program that would help defend both tenants and property owners against further financial difficulties as the pandemic continues.”
The RSA’s Strasburg said that with data showing clearly that owner income is declining and operating expenses are rising, “If there’s going to be a rent freeze, the Mayor needs to take the same steps for building owners and enact a freeze on property taxes and water and sewer bills.
“All a rent freeze will do is seal de Blasio’s legacy as the Mayor who expedited the deterioration of the city’s aging housing stock,” Strasburg added.
A spokesman for the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) which represents 4,000 owners and managers, also slammed the vote, which passed five votes to four.
“With tonight’s preliminary vote, the Rent Guidelines Board demonstrated that it is playing politics and not interested in using real data and facts to make informed decisions. Small property owners throughout this City are facing increasing costs to run their buildings and a rent freeze is ultimately going to delay the City’s recovery,” said CHIP.
The vote came as the state extended and eviction moratorium for residential and commercial tenants who can’t be their rent because of the COVID crisis.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he is “working on relief” for landlords, but said at his press briefing yesterday (Thursday), “On a human level, I don’t want to see people and their children being evicted at this time through no fault of their own.”
Picture top: Tenant groups throughout the country are campaigning for a rent moratorium during the coronavirus pandemic.