Whether or not Mayor Bill de Blasio still has direct involvement in the deliberations of the City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), his appointees on the Board are certainly making him proud by sharing his ideologies and carrying out his political agenda.
We know how hard Mayor de Blasio advocated for rent freezes during his first term, and he even publicly admitted that he advised the Board to approve the record-low rent guidelines. Now that he is well into his second term, Mayor de Blasio can rest easy knowing that his appointees will carry out his pro-tenant policies by prioritizing tenant affordability rather than a fair balance between the needs of owners and tenants.
This Board was once again given data that justifies adequate rent increases, and just like last year, they have approved historically low guidelines despite high operating cost increases that rent-stabilized property owners have had to endure under this administration.
Over the last few months, RSA put in a tireless effort meeting with Board members, submitting data and testifying before the Board multiple times. Despite the facts that show how operating costs continue to be a burden for owners and that tenants are doing well; the Board shuns all this information and firmly believes that owners are making money hand over fist.
Property taxes continue to go through the roof, fuel prices are surging and once again water and sewer rates are on the rise. It is beyond imagination how these Board members can actually justify the continuation of these low rent guidelines when the data demonstrates the need for higher rent increases.
Now, after five years of historically low guidelines amounting to just 3.75 percent over that time, we wonder what it will take for this Board to realize that they are hurting the very people they are trying to protect. For five years, rents have stayed relatively low for rent-stabilized tenants, and yet, these tenants are still burdened by the low rents they already pay.
We have preached that the only solution to help these income-burdened tenants is to support subsidy programs that have been proposed on the state level. We have urged this Board, as well as the countless number of pro-tenant elected officials, to support these proposals, and they have not done so to this day.
Private rent-stabilized property owners should not be burdened with subsidizing rents for tenants who can’t afford it. That is the government’s responsibility, and the so-called pro-tenant elected officials have turned a blind eye to legitimate solutions to help the tenants who are truly in need.
So, while rent increases remain historically low, tenants are still suffering and owners ultimately suffer without the profitability needed to invest back into their aging buildings. Not to mention, the City continues to impose new mandates every year that require out-of-pocket money from owners with no opportunity to recoup those expenses. This Board continues to ignore these realities year after year.
Before the Board reconvenes next year, RSA hopes to work with the RGB research staff and have them consider legitimate data that shows why larger rent increases are needed to cover ever-increasing operating costs. Although this will be a difficult task, our staff is prepared to do whatever it takes to ultimately achieve the rent guidelines that rent-stabilized property owners need and deserve.
And now, the squeeze that the RGB is exerting on rental property owners could very well extend to our state capital as well. Statewide elections will be here before you know it, and the pro-tenant Democrats are on a mission to win the majority of the Senate seats with the rent laws coming up for renewal next spring. Should they achieve their goal, the rental housing industry could face a stranglehold from all directions.
Unless the Republicans win enough seats to regain outright control of the Senate, the state Senate will effectively be run by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and all of their pro-tenant allies. The squeeze on the housing industry will not only continue, it will get much worse.
RSA will continue to advocate for the best interests of rental property owners. It is important that all elected officials, regardless of what political party they are affiliated with, understand that the health and future of the City’s existing affordable housing stock is only sustainable with a fair balance between the needs of owners and tenants.
Joseph Strasburg, President
Rent Stabilization Association
123 William Street, 14th Fl
New York, NY 10038