Tag Archives: Rent Guidelines Board

Op-Ed: Rent laws protect tenants and preserve communities

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


In Joseph Strasburg’s editorial published on May 14, ”Rent rules hurt everyone,” he attacks Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to strengthen the rent laws and conveniently ignores all the facts about the New York City real estate market.

The facts show that what the mayor is proposing is exactly what is needed to save NYC’s largest stock of affordable housing. Landlords and their lobbyists have weakened rent laws for the past 20 years. Allowing landlords to have vacancy bonuses and rights to deregulate apartments has led to the loss of almost 300,000 affordable, rent-stabilized apartments.

In addition, vacancy deregulation creates an incentive for landlords to harass existing rent-stabilized tenants so that tenants move out, landlords increase rents and the apartment gets closer and closer to the threshold. Removing this incentive, as the mayor has proposed, is absolutely critical.

Mr. Strasburg also ignores the fact that rent increases proposed by the Rent Guidelines Board have overcompensated owners over the past 20 years. Rent increases by the board have resulted in a 34 percent increase in net operating income. Rents in rent-stabilized apartments have also increased at a pace that far exceeds the consumer price index in the past two decades.

He further ignores the fact that rent-stabilized tenants are low income, earning, on average, less than $40,000 per year. Strasburg also overlooks the fact that most of the rent-stabilized apartments are owned by large corporations, many of which engage in predatory tactics. If owners really do need increases, they should open their books.

Moreover, rent regulation is not just about protecting tenants from huge rent increases and market speculation — it is about preserving the stability of our neighborhoods.
Rent regulations give tenants the right to have their leases renewed and stay in their apartments, making a home to raise their children and grandchildren. Without this protection, the 2.5 million tenants who live in rent-stabilized apartments would worry about where they would live every time their lease expired — every one to two years.

This important protection allows tenants to confront landlords who violate the law by not providing basic services or harassing tenants with frivolous lawsuits or charging them illegal fees. It allows tenants to organize, to call 311, to take their landlords to court. Without this protection, many tenants would not organize or fight for their rights, and many more would live in substandard housing conditions.

This protection is good for all tenants at various income and rent levels.

Tenant representatives work hard to support rent subsidies for low-income tenants. However, that is only one solution to the affordability housing crisis we have in New York. More than 60,000 New Yorkers are homeless. More than 28,000 individuals and families are evicted each year, and approximately half of those evictions are from rent-stabilized apartments.
What tenants need right now is the end to vacancy deregulation, MCI reform, elimination of additional fees, a right to counsel in housing court and a rent freeze. This is essential for all New Yorkers.

Garcia is the deputy director of Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and Epstein is director of the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center.


Op-ed: Rent rules hurt everyone

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Mayor de Blasio recently declared war on the rental housing industry by supporting tenant-backed state legislation that would cut off the life blood of city’s existing rental housing. Perhaps the mayor does not realize that the ultimate casualties, if his proposals were to be adopted, will be renters, the city’s economy and his own housing plan.

The mayor’s proposals would eliminate rent increases when apartments become vacant, prohibit the deregulation of stabilized apartments and limit incentives for apartment and building improvements.

The sources of income that the mayor would eliminate are precisely what keeps stabilized housing alive. They were enacted by the state Legislature because rent increases provided by the city Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) were insufficient to meet ever-rising building operating costs. Long-term, building operating costs have increased by 5 to 6 percent per year, while the RGB has allowed rents to increase by only 3 percent per year.

The mayor does not seem to recognize that it takes money to operate rental properties, a cost that keeps increasing primarily because of increases in city real estate taxes and water and sewer charges.

These municipal charges make up one-third of building operating costs and are set to increase once again in July.

Instead, to keep rents low, Mayor de Blasio has decided that owners have been over-compensated in the past and are now making too much profit. There is no basis for making that judgement across the board.

Everyone knows that not all tenants are poor, just as not all owners are rich. Nor was it the purpose of the rent stabilization law to regulate profits. We tried that under the old rent control system which decimated the housing stock and left as its legacy apartments that still rent for less than $100 per month.

It’s time to finally acknowledge that rent regulations are a cause of, and not a cure for, the city’s affordable housing crisis. The affordability crisis (which certainly exists for low-income renters but not across the board), is not a result of excessive rents, but a problem of inadequate incomes. The only way to address this problem is through rent subsidy programs targeted for the neediest tenants. In other words, protect the tenants, not the apartments.

The mayor understands the need for rent subsidy. His administration has asked owners to help house homeless families using rent subsidies and the industry is ready to help. However, even if there are not enough rent subsidies available, the answer is not to freeze rents.

Rent-stabilized housing in NYC produced $19 billion in economic activity in 2014, including 153,000 jobs in locally based businesses. Half of this housing is owned by small business owners utilizing other small neighborhood businesses. This housing also generated nearly $3 billion in city taxes to fund municipal services like police, fire and sanitation.

As long as the city needs more tax revenue, rents will have to increase. The only way to protect our neediest tenants is for tenant advocates, the mayor and other elected officials need to join with the industry to support an expansion of the existing rent increase exemption programs to cover all income eligible renters.

Joseph Strasburg is the president of the Rent Stabilization Association.


Op-ed: Landlords to RGB and de Blasio: Ice the rent freeze

| oped@queenscourier.com


All signs are pointing to a rent freeze when the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) convenes this Monday (June 23) to vote on the percentage increase that building owners of 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs can charge their tenants on one- and two-year leases.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made a rent freeze a campaign promise, and the RGB — including de Blasio’s five newly appointed members — last month took a preliminary vote that called for a zero percent increase on a one-year lease.

Unprecedented in the 45-year history of the rent stabilization system, a rent freeze would hurt tenants, families and neighborhoods throughout Queens County. It would also doom de Blasio’s 10-year housing plan — which calls for the protection and expansion of affordable buildings — even before it gets off the ground.

The RGB has heard testimony from tenants, building owners and other peripherally interested groups at four public hearings — including one at Queens Borough Hall — leading to Monday’s final vote. If RGB members were listening to small building owners — which are the largest providers of quality, affordable housing in outer boroughs like Queens — they would realize that a rent freeze, while politically expedient, is not practical.

How can the RGB even justify a rent freeze when its own 2013 income and expense study shows that the operating costs of building owners of rent-stabilized apartments was 5.7 percent?

A rent freeze would be debilitating to small building owners in neighborhoods throughout Queens. A fair and reasonable rent increase is the sole source of income that enables small building owners in Queens to repair and maintain affordable housing.

They put the rent right back into their buildings — replacing heating systems and roofs, fixing leaks, making electrical repairs, and providing a host of other repairs and maintenance to apartments and their buildings so that families can live in quality, affordable housing.

Queens building owners also keep other small businesses in the borough thriving by hiring local contractors, painters, plumbers, electricians and laborers, and they purchase refrigerators, stoves and other appliances and materials from neighborhood supply facilities. All of these local companies provide jobs to residents of Queens neighborhoods who, in turn, spend money at local grocery stores, bodegas, hair salons, restaurants, movie theaters and retail shops.

Besides the economic impact on Queens neighborhoods, an enormous chunk of the rent goes straight to the city’s coffers for property taxes and water and sewer bills, which helps pay for police, fire, education, sanitation, parks and other city services that are provided to Queens residents.

A vote for a rent freeze would be tantamount to a tenant rent subsidy — and rent subsidies should come from government, not on the backs of small Queens building owners. Who subsidizes Queens building owners to help them pay for constantly rising costs associated with maintaining quality, affordable housing — like heating oil, repairs, general maintenance and government-mandated costs such as property taxes and water and sewer rates?

A rent freeze (or the unrealistic and inadequately low range of a 0 to 3 percent rent hike on a one-year lease and 0.5 to 4.5 percent increase on a two-year lease) would create massive disinvestment in affordable housing. This would lead to disrepair, loss and eventual abandonment of the quality affordable housing stock in Queens and other outer boroughs.

It’s simple arithmetic. If a rent freeze is imposed, small building owners in Queens would be unable to meet city tax obligations, make repairs, maintain quality living conditions for their tenants, and fuel neighborhood economies and provide jobs.

When you look at the big picture, there is much riding on a fair and reasonable rent increase — which is why common sense, and not the politics of a rent freeze, must prevail when the RGB takes its final vote on Monday.

Joseph Strasburg is the president of the Rent Stabilization Association of New York City. RSA represents 25,000 building owners of 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, making it the largest organization of its kind in NYC.



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Tuesday: A mix of clouds and sun. High 69. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph. Tuesday Night: Mostly clear. Low 46. Winds NNW at 10 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY:  A Colorful Expression of Mind

This art show features work by people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. Spearheaded by Venture House, this exhibit includes paintings, sculptures, graphic art, and multimedia pieces. At the Queensborough Community College Art Gallery through June 30. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

At 111, oldest man in world lives on Upper West Side

He’s the oldest man in the world at 111 years young and he calls the Upper West Side home. Read more: ABC New York

Rent Guidelines Board considers rent freeze

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board has voted to consider 0 to 3 percent increases on one-year leases on rent-regulated apartments. Read more: Fox New York

Mayor de Blasio unveils affordable housing plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his ambitious $41 billion housing plan Monday, promising to embrace density, push developers to include homes for poorer residents and commit city funds to create enough housing over the next decade to house half a million people. Read more: NBC New York

GOP lawmakers mad over ‘hidden’ gun-control funding in state budget

Pro-gun GOP lawmakers are smoking mad that they voted for millions of dollars in funding for the SAFE Act — the state’s strict gun-control law — claiming they didn’t know the spending was hidden in state budget bills. Read more: New York Post

Study ranks New York as worst state for retiring

A new survey from Bankrate ranked New York state dead last on the list of places to retire. Read more: CBS New York

Rent-stabilized tenants get highest hike since 2008

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The city’s Rent Guidelines Board voted Thursday to increase rents on rent-stabilized apartments by 4 percent for one-year leases and 7.75 percent for two-year leases.

The increases will apply to renewal leases commencing on or after October 1, 2013 and on or before September 30, 2014.

The hikes are reportedly the highest rate increases since 2008.