Kim Statuto is already in the red.

The retired peer counselor pays $1,781 in monthly rent for her rent-stabilized apartment in the Tremont section of the Bronx, but says she only brings in about $1,000 each month. Any rent increase will have a certain outcome.

“[It ] will put me in the street or in a shelter,” Statuto told Gothamist. “Do I need to be in a shelter at 62?”

Rent-stabilized tenants like Statuto are bracing for the worst ahead of a preliminary vote by the New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board set for Thursday night that they fear could trigger the largest rent increases in years.

Last month, the board, which regulates the rents of more than 2.4 million New York City tenants, laid out a range of potential rent increases between 2.7% and 4.5% on one-year leases and between 4.3 and 9% on two-year leases. On Thursday night, board members will put out a series of specific proposals for rent increases and conduct a preliminary vote, which often portends the final vote.

Groups that represent property owners for the city’s rent-stabilized housing stock have been pushing significant increases, pointing to an estimated 4.2% surge in costs for landlords and a year and half when the board voted to hold rents flat during the start of the pandemic. That followed years of low or no increases under former Mayor Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Without adequate rent increases for thousands of stabilized property owners, we could reach a point of irreparable harm,” warned Vito Signorile, a spokesperson for the Rent Stabilization Association at an April 26th hearing of the board. “No longer can building owners be made the scapegoat for failed housing policies.”

Tenants and tenant advocates now say a pivot that benefits landlords could accelerate displacement under Mayor Eric Adams.

"The [Rent Guidelines Board] is a political body … the guidelines of the RGB are going to be reflective of the mayor's priorities,” said Oksana Mironova, a housing policy analyst with the Community Service Society. “I feel like it's going to move away from the direction that the de Blasio board took.”

Adams has appointed three new members to the nine-person board since taking office: Arpit Gupta, assistant professor of finance at New York University Stern School of Business, who’d previously voiced skepticism about the concept of rent control, and attorney Christina Smyth who represents landlords and management companies across the five boroughs. Adams’ third addition to the board was housing court lawyer Adán Soltren, who is thought to be more receptive to tenant concerns.

Asked about the proposed increases at a press conference last month, Adams cited the importance of striking a balance between landlords and tenants.

“We don't want to aggravate the eviction process, but we’ve also got to look at small property owners,” the mayor said, who himself has rented out units in the Bed-Stuy building he owns. “If you are a mom-and-pop that owns a 10-family unit and your electric bills are going up, your water bills are going up, this is your only source of income … These small mom and pops have been decimated.”

Landlord groups often point to the struggle of small New York City building owners. A recent analysis from the advocacy group Housing Justice for All found companies represented by the three major New York City landlord associations each owned on average 5,144 apartments.

The rent guidelines preliminary board vote comes at an already tumultuous time for New York City renters.

Market rate rents are at historic heights, and after two years of a pandemic-era moratorium, evictions are starting to spike. Statewide data showed 17,678 evictions were filed in March, up 38% from the month before. Those numbers are still below pre-pandemic eviction levels, but analysts expect them to climb further. Meanwhile, a shortage of housing court attorneys has meant more tenants are facing eviction without representation.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high in New York City, at 6.5% compared to the statewide average of 4.6%. Meanwhile the median income for rent-stabilized households was $44,560 — with 30 percent of rent-stabilized renters earning less than $40,020 for a family of four, even before the pandemic all but froze the city’s economy.

When all these factors are considered, board member Soltren told Gothamist, “it's unconscionable and unfathomable that they would consider raising the rent at all.” Still he admitted sizable increases seem inevitable given the current political landscape.

“It's going to be a battle to try and keep the rents low and hopefully try to get a rent freeze. It's a tall order this year,” he said. “But at the same time, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't and couldn't be fighting for it because it's what's right.”

I should not have to go to the food bank ... I don’t know what they want from us. People can’t even pay their rent now.

Retired Verizon worker and rent-stabilized tenant Linda Seward

Landlords of rent-stabilized buildings have argued the board shouldn’t be considering renters’ or the city’s financial health at all when deciding whether to raise rents. They argue if tenants can’t afford their rents, the government should bump up their rent subsidies, but property owners shouldn’t be left holding the bag.

“We see no reason that housing affordability should be a factor in this discussion. The economic status of renters is not this board’s concern,” said Joseph Condon — an attorney for the Community Housing Improvement Program, an association of rent-stabilized landlords — at public meeting last month. “Quite frankly we don’t believe that rent-stabilization was intended to be a housing affordability program. Its intent was to prevent speculation, to prevent profiteering. It was not intended to limit objectively determined rent increases.”

Tenants are awaiting Thursday’s board vote, wondering how much they’ll have to adjust their monthly spending once this year’s lease is up.

Linda Seward, 70, a retired Verizon worker who lives in a rent-stabilized building on Grand Concourse in the Bronx, said her budget has already gotten tighter with the surge in food and medication prices in recent months.

“I should not have to go to the food bank. I find myself going to food banks,” she said. “I don’t know what they want from us. People can’t even pay their rent now.”

Seward said she’d voted for Adams last year, but given his stance towards rent-stabilized tenants, she was rethinking her choice.

“I know that he has good intentions,” she said. “But the intentions cannot [be]: open the city, open the clubs and then you’re going to make people homeless.”

Jake Offenhartz contributed reporting.