News, commentary and analysis by leaders of the Communist Party USA in New York State. We discuss State politics and issues in New York City, covering developments in labor, civil rights education, housing and more.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rents Go Up...Again

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board met Jun 26 for its final deliberations and vote for 2007. The Board composed of nine members appointed by the Mayor, meets annually holding hearing through the Spring in each borough of the city, culminating in a final decision on how much if any rent increase will be allowed for the city’s approximately 1 million units covered by rent control and rent stabilization, including apartments, lofts and Single Room Occupancy hotels.

The hearing was held in the Great Hall of Cooper Union and drew more than 200 tenants who will be affected by the Board’s decisions. Waiving signs calling for 0% increase, chanting slogans and singing songs about Board Chair Marvin “Markup” Markus, tenants showed their frustration with annual increases in rent despite breaks for landlords such as the recent tax breaks approved in the City Budget just days ago. There is not such tax break for tenants in the final version of the budget.

A press conference held before the hearing gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg a “F” for his policies on affordable housing. “You need to report to Summer School,” said one speaker. The mayor did not attend the hearing, but City Councilmember Robert Jackson did, handing out copies of his appeal to the Board to vote for no increase. “Please consider what even a 2% increase will mean to these families,” read his statement.

Despite the overwhelming opposition to the increase by hearing attendees and other advocates, the Board eventually adopted yet another increase, the 40th straight year they have done so. The final decision in a 5-4 vote was for a 3% increase for a one-year lease and 5.75% increase for a two-year lease on apartments. Similar increases were adopted for SROs and lofts. Advocates believe that the small premium on two-year leases will also encourage shorter renewals and higher renter turnover.

While rents were hiked, they did not go up as much as recent years' increases. This is no doubt do to increased awareness of housing issues in the city, and outspoken public pressure.

“Tenants continue to shoulder the burden,” said Adriene Holder before the final vote. Holder is one of the two tenant representatives on the Board of nine members. “The Rent Guidelines Board is part of the problem. And I am so embarrassed to be a part of the problem.” Holder and the other tenant representative voted no to the increase. The two owner representatives voted no as well, apparently because they believe the increase is too small.”

The rent increases are effective from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008.

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