Tenants protest the dearth and death of affordable housing at the final vote of the Rent Guidelines Board. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Rent Guidelines Board approved 1.5 and 2.5 percent increases for rent-stabilized tenants in the board’s final vote at Cooper Union’s Great Hall last Tuesday evening. The event attracted the usual crowd of chanting tenants, most calling for a rent freeze at the vote and pre-event rally and some even hoping for a rollback, but the increases proposed by RGB chair Kathleen Roberts passed in a narrow 5 to 4 vote.
While the annual vote usually ends with a proposal that is a compromise between high increases from the board’s landlord representatives and low increases, or often a rent freeze, from the tenant representatives, a public member voted differently than members in the same position have in the past.
Rodrigo Camarena, who Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed this year, voted with the tenant representatives for a rent freeze while the other public members, as well as the owner members and the chair, voted against the measure.
“For the vulnerable, for the displaced, for fairness, I vote yes,” Camarena said when casting his vote.
Tenants react to the board voting down a rent freeze (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The possibility of a rent freeze was quashed last Thursday at the Rent Guidelines Board’s preliminary vote, held at Cooper Union’s Great Hall. As is the case in most previous years, the proposal that ultimately passed was from the board’s chair, Kathleen Roberts, with ranges from 0.75 to 2.75 percent increases for one-year leases and 1.75 to 3.75 percent increases for two-year leases for rent-stabilized tenants.
Tenant representatives Sheila Garcia and newly-appointed Leah Goodridge offered a proposal that would have included a rent freeze for one-year and two-year lease renewals but the chair, the board’s four public members and the two owner members voted against the measure.
The owner representatives attempted to offer their own proposal but were shouted down by tenants who started chanting and yelling once the proposal for a rent freeze failed. Roberts read her proposal and held a vote amidst the yelling and the board walked off the stage with most tenants in the crowd unaware that anything had been decided. The chair’s proposal passed in a vote of five to four, with the owner and tenant representatives voting against the measure and the public members and chair voting for it.
Members of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association participate in a pre-vote rally. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Tenant advocates didn’t get the rent rollback they were hoping for but the Rent Guidelines Board did offer some relief with a freeze for one-year leases in their vote at Cooper Union’s Great Hall this past Monday night. Tenants signing two year leases will be getting a two-percent increase as a result of the vote.
The proposal, which Board Chair Kathleen Roberts presented after motions from both the tenant and landlord representatives failed, passed with a vote of 7-0, with the two owner representatives abstaining. The two percent increase and the freeze is the same proposal that passed at last year’s vote.
Prior to offering a proposal, owner representative Scott Walsh acknowledged the significance of the housing crisis in New York but suggested that there were other solutions, like rent credits for tenants paying more than half of their income in rent and the expansion of rent subsidy programs.
Walsh got the approval of the crowd, rare for an owner representative on the board, at the suggestion of increasing the income threshold on SCRIE and DRIE to $72,000 for two-person households and $63,000 for one-person households, but he was drowned out again by the yelling of protesters when he ultimately offered a proposal to increase one-year leases by three percent and two-year leases by five percent.
“This attempts to balance the needs of landlords and tenants,” he said. “Rent stabilization is not an official affordable housing program. Owners still need to account for costs.”
Mayor de Blasio has appointed two new members to the nine-member Rent Guidelines Board, a new chair and a new owner’s representative.
The two appointments – new chair Kathleen Roberts, a former United States Magistrate Judge, and owner rep Mary Serafy – “have years of experience in both the public and private sectors,” the mayor said in a press release on Tuesday.
The Rent Guidelines Board is responsible for determining rent increases for around one million apartments in the city each year, last year issuing its first ever rent freeze for tenants signing one-year leases.
In an official statement, the mayor said, “Judge Kathleen Roberts has years of experience serving New Yorkers as a United States Magistrate Judge and Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal and Civil Divisions. Likewise, Ms. Serafy is well-versed in the field of housing, planning and development in both the public and private sectors.
“I’m confident that their addition to the Rent Guidelines Board will serve New Yorkers well – tenants and landlords alike – in establishing rent adjustments that are fair and grounded in real-life conditions in our neighborhoods.”