Renters living in one of the city’s one million rent-regulated apartments were offered a glimmer of hope on Thursday evening after the Rent Guidelines Board cast a preliminary vote approving a rent freeze amid the COVID-19 outbreak that’s devastated New York City’s economy.

The 5-4 vote—often an accurate preview of the RGB's official vote next month—brings the prospect of a rent freeze—the third in recent years—closer to reality. It also came the same day that Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order extending a moratorium on evictions until August 20th, from its original deadline of June 20th. Cuomo’s order will also prohibit owners from issuing late fees for missed payments and allows renters to pay rent using their security deposit. The security deposit, however, will need to be paid back over time.

It wasn't all good news for tenants: the RGB took another preliminary vote to increase rent by one percent for renters with two-year leases. That increase wouldn't come until the second year, and would apply to renters who sign leases after September 30th. The RGB also rejected tenant advocates’ request for a rent reduction, as well as an ask from owner representatives for a two percent increase on one-year leases and an a 4.75 and 5.5 percent increase on two-year leases.

The meeting was the first time the RGB approved a preliminary rent freeze via Zoom, forgoing the often boisterous and highly contentious nature of the meetings. It serves as a win for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appoints the RGB members and has been calling for a rent freeze since the pandemic began. "I think the facts warrant it very, very intensely right now given how much pain people are going through economically and humanly," de Blasio said at his most recent tele-town hall, just under a week before the vote.

With COVID-19 destabilizing the finances of millions of New York City residents—many of whom were furloughed or lost their job—this year’s vote to freeze rents is especially urgent. A report released by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer estimates that 900,000 New York City residents, averaging out to 22% of the total city population, will lose their job by June because of the outbreak.

The Rent Stabilization Association and the Community Housing Improvement Program, which represent landlords, who were on hand at the evening vote, criticized the decision. In a statement following the vote, the groups said the RGB is “playing politics” and “not interested in using real data and facts to make informed decision.”

"Small property owners throughout this City are facing increasing costs to run their buildings and a rent freeze is ultimately going to delay the City’s recovery," the statement read.

The RGB will meet on June to take a final vote at an undetermined time.