Editorial: Rents are frozen, landlords need to cool it

While landlords in the city of New York were understandably upset about the Rent Guidelines Board issuing its second rent freeze in a row last year, the fact that an organization has sued the board on their behalf is laughable. Or it might be if it weren’t so sad.

As Town & Village reported last week, the landlord group Rent Stabilization Association has claimed that the board erred by taking into account what tenants could afford to pay as opposed to only what landlords’ operating costs and conditions were. But that completely one-side argument makes no sense. Of course tenants’ overall financial state matters. When you charge a price for a service that’s also one of life’s basic necessities, if that price is beyond what anyone can actually reasonably afford then that’s called price gouging. And this kind of gouging has been going on in New York City, openly and shamelessly, for far too long. The RGB finally recognized this and made its decision accordingly.

Additionally, it just comes off as being petty when the real estate industry, which willingly accepted the RGB’s decisions for the entire length of its existence, suddenly sees reason to question its authority and judgment just because it didn’t get the decision it wanted. Look at it this way: for the past 48 years since the RGB was introduced, landlords had it pretty good. Increases came every year, even during the great recession. Is two years of a rent freeze really that unreasonable considering? After the economic crisis, most people considered themselves lucky if they could hang onto their incomes.

Forget about raises, especially generous ones.

We hesitate to think how much nastier this litigation could have been if the RGB had voted to enact the rent rollback tenants were really after.

Fortunately, this shouldn’t go on for too much longer. Because the next round of rent increases for the city’s rent-regulated tenants (or the next freeze, though we doubt it) will be debated in just three months, and the judge presiding over this suit has committed to issuing her decision by the end of March.

We hope that she respects the decision made by the board, as everyone always has, regardless of how they felt about getting gouged.

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