Proposed rent hikes prompt rally, debate

Protestors on Monday gathered in front of Cooper Union on Monday to oppose proposed rent hikes in the city. Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds

BY Aline Reynolds

“They say rent hike! We say fair rent!” was one of many chants Chinatown and Lower East Side residents shouted on Mon., June 20 at a rally to protest the city’s imminent rent hikes.

The city Rent Guidelines Board will vote on the proposed rent increases on Mon., June 27 for lease renewals of apartments, lofts, hotels and other housing units that are subject to the state’s rent stabilization law, which is currently being debated in Albany and awaiting passage. The R.G.B. is considering a hike of up to 5.75 percent for one-year lease renewals and a six-to-nine percent hike for two-year lease renewals — higher than last year’s increases of 2.25 percent and 4.5 percent for one- and two-year lease renewals, respectively. The new law would also institute a surcharge of one percent for tenants in buildings that use heating oil as opposed to natural gas.

The new rents will go into effect on October 1, and last through September 30, 2012.

On Monday, the groups marched down the Bowery, from Chatham Square to Cooper Union, where the R.G.B. hearing was being held. Many of them then attended the hearing to testify and voice their support.

“Chinatown has a lot of working class people. Rents are already unaffordable for them,” said Chinatown tenant Fuko Pan. “We can’t let [them] go up anymore.”

“[My parents] are concerned about the substantial increases happening this year,” said Madison Street resident Billy Zhu. Zhu’s father and mother, who has lived in their rent-controlled apartment for more than 30 years, has struggled to keep up with the family’s lease since they retired.

Zhu, currently unemployed, is afraid he wouldn’t have enough money for lodging if he and his parents were forced out of the apartment. “It would be difficult,” he said.

As landlords continue to increase their net operating revenue, local tenants in have seen their incomes drop by 12 percent in the last two years, according to District One Councilmember Margaret Chin, who testified at the hearing.

“Rent increases should be very narrowly tailored to provide only the income necessary for owners to maintain services, and should burden tenants as lightly as possible, [especially since] the number of units taken out of stabilization because of luxury and vacancy decontrol continues to rise” said Chin.

The R.G.B. needs to take tenants into account when considering rent increases, according to the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence Chinatown tenants’ union director, Esther Wang.

“Every year, the [R.G.B.] caves in to landlord interests and raises rents for millions of New Yorkers, never taking into consideration that working-class and immigrant New Yorkers are having a harder and harder time finding work and making ends meet,” said Wang.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is advocating for a complete freeze on the regulated rents. “In this difficult economic climate, hard-working New Yorkers simply cannot afford another rent increase,” he said. “Too many New Yorkers have been priced out of their neighborhoods, threatening our city’s supply of affordable housing.”

District Two Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who marched to the hearing with tenants from the Village and the Lower East Side, is urging the R.G.B. to keep the coming year’s rent increases below two percent for a one-year lease and below four percent for a two-year lease.

While city buildings’ net operating incomes have risen in recent years, costs to run them have slightly decreased.

“Within the communities of my district, there are tens of thousands of rent-stabilized housing units which are at risk of being lost,” said Mendez. “At this time, when the recession has hit working class New Yorkers very hard, it is critically important that the Rent Guidelines Board take steps to ensure that these units are preserved for our city’s low- and middle-income families.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer testified against the heating oil surcharge on tenants, which he said would provide an incentive for landlords to keep dirty boilers in place. Sixty-three percent of NYC buildings with one or more rent-regulated apartments burn dirty fuel oil, according to a report Stringer’s office released earlier this month.

“Clearly, all New Yorkers will benefit from the rapid conversions of these dirty boilers to cleaner fuels. However, the [R.G.B.] is actively working against the public interest by proposing a supplemental one percent increase for all buildings that use any type of fuel oil,” said Stringer. “At the very least, this ridiculous proposal should be modified so that not a single cent is used to incentivize boilers burning number four and number six home heating oils.”

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5 Responses to Proposed rent hikes prompt rally, debate

  1. Barbara Paolucci

    Rents are out of control and have been for years.u00a0 The problem is caused by the fact that property taxes are based on a building's annual rent roll which is how the building is valued.u00a0 NO LANDLORD PAYS PROPERTY TAXES.u00a0 Only single family homeowners and tenants pay property taxes and the tenants do not get the benefit of the tax deductions for it.nnLandlords however, exert control over rent increases by giving the politicians the money they claim to lack due to rents being too low, money that once again came from the tenants rents.u00a0 nnBottom line is we are paying for our own misery!nnNYC has a finite number of rental units and land to build is not easy to find.u00a0u00a0 This means the free market can never be allowed to dictate rents because there is no free market in rental units.u00a0 nnPoliticians have been trying to deregulate all apartments for decades.u00a0 All new buildings are allowed to be free from rent regulations and those buildings subject to rent regulations have built in to the laws the means of getting the buildings out from under those regulations – vacancy increases of $20% regardless of what is actually spent preparing an apartment for a new tenant and the rent increase simply because there's a new tenant.u00a0 As a result rents are so out of line with reality that in most cases a one bedroom apartment gets rented to two or more roommates in order to cover the rent.nnThis has to change.u00a0 We need to have the right to have referendums in elections – somehow New Yorkers lost this right and it needs to be restored so that issues like this can be handled at the ballot box instead of in Albany!

  2. If Real estate taxes are capped then it could be suggested that rents have au00a0smalleru00a0increase. Otherwise there is no reason foru00a0entrepreneursu00a0to take such risks as shelling their own money to purchase a building and maintain it, while the bottom line keeps getting smaller or with no potential to make money. Should entrepreneurs make money on housing investments? Well, answer this, "would you rather have a communist system govern you?" if the answer to the latter is an absolute NO then the absolute answer to the first question is a Yes.u00a0

  3. I'm a market rate renter. u00a0Rents should go up a minimum of $100/month. u00a0My rent went up $200 this year. u00a0Am I supposed to feel sorry for someone whose rent went from $700 to $800?nAlso no one should have a rent below $500. u00a0Again, am I supposed to feel sorry for someone whose rent goes from $127 to $500? u00a0People with ridiculously good deals need to carry more of the burden of the building's costs. Otherwise market rate renters like me are forced to carry all of the burden.n

  4. wages need to catch up with u00a0 the economic reality! Increase the wages of working/tax paying citizens to meet up with u00a0the demands being made . not only does the rent go up ,but also transportation,energy,food just to mention a few.JObs,Jobs Jobs …now with 21th century demands.

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