New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board voted to increase rents by some of the biggest margins in nearly a decade during a preliminary vote Thursday night, though they were somewhat less than what the board had been mulling in recent weeks.

The board endorsed rent increases of between 2 and 4% for one-year leases and between 4 and 6% for two-year leases, which could amount to the most sizable surge in stabilized rents since 2013, when one-year leases went up 4% and two-year leases went up 7.75%.

The jump will affect the city’s roughly 2.4 million rent-stabilized tenants living in more than 940,000 apartments across the five boroughs, a third of whom are estimated to earn less than $40,000 for a family of four. After a year and a half rent freeze, and nearly a decade of modest or no raises under former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenant-friendly board, Thursday night’s 5-4 vote represents a decided shift under Mayor Eric Adams. Last month, the boardlaid 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.

In a statement following the vote, Adams said he told the board to bring the increases down slightly.

"I believed that the numbers initially reported were much too high, so I called for a better balance — and it is good the board moved lower," the mayor said, adding that he would continue to push for more housing vouchers for low-income tenants, a bigger earned income tax credit and more government spending on child care. "If rents and the other costs of living are going to go up with inflation and other economic issues, then so too must government support."

While Thursday night’s vote is preliminary, it often foreshadows how the board will vote when it makes its final decision in June.

Robert Ehrlich, a board member representing landlords, proposed a bigger increase, which would have raised rents as much as 8.5% for two-year leases. He ultimately voted against the successful motion.

“We need to make sure that buildings have the money to pay for those costs,” Ehrlich said. “If we don't get this right, a large number of buildings could get quickly slipped into the dilapidation. We could return to the horrifying days of the ‘70s and ‘80s very quickly.”

The Rent Guidelines Board is made up of nine mayoral appointees, two of whom represent tenant voices, two who represent landlords, and another five members who are supposed to act on behalf of the general public. During Thursday night’s preliminary vote, five members of the board voted in favor of the proposed hikes.

“The RGB’s preliminary vote reflects fair consideration of the most recently available data on cost pressures facing property owners and tenants, as well as an understanding of the private sector’s fundamental role in producing and maintaining quality rental housing," said James Whelan, president of the Real Estate Board of New York. "It has become increasingly important to take such a fair approach after the HSTPA effectively removed all other avenues to adjust rents, even at unit turnover, while taxes remain the highest annual cost for owners.”

Tenant representative Sheila Garcia pushed back against any attempts to drastically increase rents when she proposed adjustments ranging from -1 to 1.5%. She spoke in front of a room of passionate tenants who held up signs that read, “#Rent Rollback 2022.”

“Landlords skimp already. We don't need to increase rents just because of that,” Garcia said in response to the owner member’s comments about building maintenance costs. “So if we want to talk about the reality of what landlords are experiencing, have them open up their books and then start to feel bad for them.”

Tenant representative Sheila Garcia delivers testimony before the vote to increase rents.

New York City renters find themselves in an increasingly uncertain moment. Market rate rents are surging. Evictions are on the rise, while housing attorneys are increasingly hard to come by. Unemployment remains stubbornly higher than pre-pandemic levels.

And despite $2.3 billion in federal aid designated for New York landlords whose tenants fell behind during the pandemic, most renters never applied for the aid and just 7% of people who needed financial assistance applied, according to the National Equity Analysis. The group estimates that through mid-April, nearly 600,000 New Yorkers are behind on rent and owe a combined $2.24 billion.

City Councilmember Pierina Sanchez, who chairs the Housing and Buildings Committee, said the vote should have waited until this year’s Housing Vacancy Survey, which snapshots the state of rent stabilized tenants in the city.

“The RGB cannot in good faith move forward without recognizing the full extent of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had and continues to have on rent-stabilized households, the councilmember said in a statement. “Landlord burdens are not more important than renter’s plights. I am confident the HVS will further illustrate what many other sources have shown, that rent stabilized tenants, who are more likely to be low income and receive public assistance, face astronomically high rent burdens. It is this reality that should dictate the RGB’s final decision.”

Landlords have been agitating for major rent increases on stabilized tenants. The board voted to hold rents flat for the first year and half of the pandemic, while a nearly two-year-long eviction moratorium, meant landlords couldn’t oust indebted renters. They point to increases in costs of fuel, maintenance and insurance that are outpacing what they can charge in rent. One representative from the Rent Stabilization Association had warned the board at a recent public hearing that property owners were reaching the brink of “irreparable harm,” if they didn't levy substantial rent increases.

Following the board’s vote Thursday night, Joseph Strasburg, the president of the Rent Stabilization Association said the proposed increases weren’t steep enough. The group had been pushing for increases of 6.5 and 9% for one and two-year leases.

“These preliminary ranges have proven our biggest fear – that the RGB continues to believe its duty is to operate solely as an affordability program for tenants,” Strasburg said. “The process is not meant to provide rent relief to tenants – that’s government’s job through subsidy programs – which is why the RGB must now consider the highest end of the preliminary ranges so that owners can meet across-the-board increases in inflation, property taxes, water bills, and heating oil and other operating costs.”

The Rent Guidelines Board signs off after Thursday night's vote, with tenant advocates holding a sign reading "#Rent Rollback 2022" in front of the camera.

While tenant advocates worried increases of the magnitude proposed by the board would fuel an already burgeoning eviction crisis.

In a statement after the vote, Rent Justice Coalition compiled remarks from tenants throughout the city expressing their outrage at the results.

"Everything, including groceries, are getting more and more expensive for tenants. COVID19 is still continuing,” said Reng Ping Chen of the CAAAV Chinatown Tenants Union. “We see rates going up and many tenants are still without jobs. Every year the Rent Guidelines Board has raised the rent, and the rent is too high. Without income, we cannot pay the rent, and will be on the streets. We call on the Mayor to support tenants and roll back the rent!"

Housing Justice for All, which represents tenants and homeless New Yorkers, said the rent increase was a victory for billionaires.

"With homelessness and evictions on the rise, the worst thing we can do right now is to raise rents,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All. “This vote is a slap in the face to New Yorkers who are still recovering from the pandemic and barely making ends meet. Mayor Adams may have promised he’d work for working families, but at every turn, his administration has chosen to serve the wealthy and well-connected.”