Around this time every year, rent-stabilized apartment owners gear up for a rent policy process they call anything from “politically motivated” to “charades.” We hope that this time it will be different.
As the New York City Rent Guidelines Board begins its annual facility exercise Thursday Rent Increase Policy The leases of 1 million rent-stabilized homes give their members an opportunity to hit the reset button under Mayor Eric Adams. Let’s rid the process of ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political interference that hampered the board’s mandate to ensure a healthy, sustainable stock of affordable housing.
Builders have suffered unprecedentedly loss of rental income while being hit by huge increases in general utility costs – property tax bills, heating bills and insurance premiums, to name a few. The board’s own data, which it will release in the coming weeks, should show that.
Before de Blasio, these dates actually mattered to the process. Members would analyze the numbers, decide free from political interference, and end with fair and reasonable rent increases to help building owners offset increases in utility costs and maintain affordable housing.
But de Blasio openly politicized the process for eight years on the false premise that the owners were overcompensated during Michael Bloomberg’s 12 years as mayor. Its board ignored legitimate data, and the proof is in the numbers: The RGB delivered eight years of historically low rent increases averaging 0.75% per year, while operating costs for rent-stabilized units rose 3.6% on average annually — almost five times so much. For the record, during Bloomberg’s tenure, rent increases averaged 3.3%, while utility costs rose an average of 6%.
The good news: De Blasio’s pathetic housing policy failures are a thing of the past. The bad news: the chorus of lawmakers calls for a rent freeze, or Rent Rollback, is not. The Board must wipe the slate clean and restore an independent process free from political rhetoric.
The RGB has the opportunity to fulfill its statutory mandate – to issue rental policies that not only compensate building owners for higher running costs, but ensure that they can offer their tenants quality and affordable housing conditions.
Even before the pandemic, city and state legislators—through their politically-driven housing agendas—were contributing to the accelerated deterioration of rent-stabilized housing, which, at 1 million apartments (most in pre-war buildings), is the city’s largest (and oldest) segment of affordable housing.
A nearly two-year moratorium on evictions left thousands of small landowners behind billion Debt in dollars — on top of the double whammy of Albany’s drastic changes to state tenancy laws in 2019 and the RGB’s eight years of inadequate rent increases. Albany’s changes alone effectively choked off owners’ financial ability to reinvest in home and building improvements and upgrades.
These policies have done nothing to address the heart of the problem: income insecurity.
The pandemic has highlighted this decades-old problem, which lawmakers have only exacerbated. Politicians irresponsibly encouraged tenants not to pay their rent for two years and at the same time forced the deliberate undercompensation of rent-stabilized apartment owners. The issue can no longer be ignored.
Allegedly, pro-tenant legislators have missed the target of providing real help to tenants with insecure income. They’re content to score re-election points by punishing the city’s biggest affordable housing providers, when instead they should support sustainable solutions — like raising the income threshold for eligibility for rent rebates so more families can benefit from tried-and-true programs pay a certain percentage of the rent or rent increases for income-insecure tenants. How about enacting sensible property tax reform as well to ease the leading cost burden on building owners?
Meanwhile, the RGB under Mayor Adams must return to its roots after eight years of brutal politicization by de Blasio. It should again consider its own research data and fulfill its statutory mandate to administer fair rent increases that allow owners of rent-stabilized housing to meet their obligations to provide safe, quality, and affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers. This is how we get affordable housing and our lively neighborhoods.
Vito Signorile is Vice President of Communications for the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 different building owners of 1 million rent stabilized homes.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/30/mayor-adams-can-finally-fix-the-rent-hike-process-de-blasio-politicized/ Mayor Adams can finally politicize de Blasio’s rent increase process