Editorial: Rent-stabilized story tellers wanted

Tenants at this year’s preliminary vote for the Rent Guidelines Board (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

You know spring has sprung when the stories start coming out about jet-setting tenants who Airbnb their rent-stabilized apartments while only paying a few hundred dollars in rent or less.

Just one example is the recent tale in the New York Post about a woman paying $100 for her stabilized digs that she inherited after moving in on an older, dying man.

She convinced the elderly gent, the tenant of record, to adopt her as his daughter despite being close to retirement age herself.
It’s an intriguing tale that makes one feel sorry for the poor landlords of stabilized properties.

Meanwhile, these stories about unicorn-rare rents are, we suspect, planted by groups representing landlords as the Rent Guidelines Board gears up to decide how high of an increase the city’s tenants in roughly one million rent-stabilized units will be hit with. And it will be an increase rather than a freeze, based on last month’s preliminary vote.

While we don’t doubt the accuracy of the Post story, the fact is, it’s news because of how unusual a situation it is.

What is far more common — and therefore less sexy — are the stories about rent stabilized tenants who pay market rents thanks to loopholes in the law like vacancy bonuses, individual apartment improvements, major capital improvements and the fact that people are willingly paying more than they can really afford to because there aren’t other options. Let’s not forget the stories of families packed into too-small apartments, because there’s no such thing as an upgrade to a larger, true-stabilized apartment.

Let’s not forget that the only hope these days of snagging an affordable unit is through a lottery system since when people leave stabilized units, those units are renovated and then priced a lot differently, often deregulated.

These are the stories that need to be heard by the Rent Guidelines Board.

There are three upcoming hearings in Manhattan before the final vote on June 26 where tenants can give testimony.

Since it’s not an election year for city elected officials, renters can’t necessarily count on them to lobby for lower rent but there is always the option of tenants doing it themselves.

For those who can’t make the hearings, testimony can also be written and sent in either via email at ask@nycrgb.org or mail at Rent Guidelines Board, 1 Center Street, Suite #2210, New York, NY, 10007. The testimony should be received by the board no later than the final hearing, which takes place on June 21. The next RGB meeting is scheduled for May 24 at 9:30 a.m. at the Landmarks Preservation Commission conference room, David D. Dinkins Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, on the ninth floor.

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