For the first time in two years, the Rent Guidelines Board [RGB] voted Tuesday to raise the monthly payments of 1.6 million rent-stabilized tenants. In a 7 to 2 vote at Baruch College in Manhattan, the board decided to hike rents on one year leases by 1.25 percent and two year leases by 2 percent. The news of the hike follows months of negotiations, and was largely expected after the nine-member board recommended increases in April.
Still, the vote came as a disappointment to many stabilized tenants and advocates, who'd recently called for extending the unprecedented two-year rent freeze for another year. As DNAinfo reports, hundreds of tenants showed up to Tuesday night's meeting, many of them chanting "How low can you go?" while urging board members to vote for another rent rollback.
"We understand that landlords need to maintain the buildings and make a profit," Gloria Moreno, a Queens resident and member of the Rent Justice Coalition, told the outlet. "But their profits continue to increase, meanwhile tenants can't keep up with increasing rents and other expenses."
According to many in attendance, landlords are still reaping the benefits of an 8.5 percent hike approved by the board in 2009, during the peak of the recession.
"They are not in hardship," Althea Mathews, a formerly homeless Bronx resident, told the New York Times. "We can't afford to live in this city. We need help and I'm really disappointed in the board. They didn't hear us after all these meetings."
While some tenant activists expressed frustration with the decision, others said their efforts were successful in keeping the hike relatively modest—especially compared to the 4 percent increase on one year leases and 8 percent increase on two year leases called for by the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords.
"While the votes weren't there to support a rollback, tenants—through their testimony and protests—did succeed in keeping the increase to a minimum," Harvey Epstein, director of the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center and a Rent Guidelines Board member, told DNAinfo.
Meanwhile, Jack Freund, vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association, called the increases "totally inadequate" to make up for operating costs paid by landlords, the Daily News reports.
According to a report put out by the board in April, landlords' operating costs are factored into the decision to raise rents through a price index—which increased 6.2 percent in 2016 and is forecast to go up 4.4 percent next year. A Manhattan Judge also ruled last month that the board must consider the economic circumstances of tenants when determining rents.
"Taken together, the past four years have seen the lowest guidelines in history—including the first two freezes ever," mayoral spokeswoman Melissa Grace said in a statement. "We will never go back to the days when the landlord lobby got big rent hikes regardless of what the data said."
The changes will impact lease renewals after October 1st of this year.