New York News

Stabilized Housing Rent Rates in NYC Are Set to Rise Again, Along With Tenants’ Resentment

New York City, in all its grandeur, is one of the world’s most expensive cities to call home. The Big Apple’s cost of living will go up in October for people renewing their leases for rent-stabilized housing. That is because of rate hikes approved June 17 by the Rent Guidelines Board. (Photo: Bill Miller)

CARROLL GARDENS — Leases for rent-stabilized housing in New York City are poised for the third hike in as many years following a June 17 vote by the Rent Guidelines Board.

The RGB, which regulates rent-stabilized housing across the city, voted 5-4 to allow the third major rate increases in a decade.

A cadre of hecklers assailed the vote inside the Assembly Hall at Hunter College. Police arrested nearly a dozen protestors outside the meeting for blocking entrances.

The board’s meeting lasted less than 30 minutes before the final vote. The action cleared the way for the hikes to begin Oct. 1 for an estimated 1 million New Yorkers.

Specifically, landlords will be able raise rents by no more than 2.75% for one-year leases and no more than 5% for two-year leases.

Alice Apolinaris has lived more than 45 years in the same rent-stabilized apartment in Carroll Gardens. She said she won’t be affected by the latest rate hike because she signed a new two-year lease a few days before the vote. 

Still, Apolinaris is paying a lot more than when The Tablet first contacted her two years ago. She had just retired, but the rate hikes then, coupled with nationwide inflation, spurred uncertainty for the coming decade.

Her worries have not subsided. 

Alice Apolinaris has lived in the same rent-stabilized apartment since the late 1970s. Her rent is set until next year. Still, the possibility of paying at least 2.75% more after her current lease has her searching for new ways to scrimp and save. (Photo: John Paul Apolinaris Jr.)

“I figure it’s going to go up again in two years,” she said a few hours before the RGB’s June 17 vote. “Of course I do worry. My pension check only goes to a certain amount.”

Rent stabilization came to New York City 55 years ago to protect local affordable-housing opportunities.

Since then, the city’s mayor has appointed its nine members: two representing tenants, two for landlords, and five for the public at large.

Rent rate hikes stayed low during the eight years that former Mayor Bill de Blasio oversaw appointments to the RGB. He often called for rent freezes, and the RGB delivered three, including one in 2020 when the pandemic struck.

Meanwhile, however, maintenance and other costs of owning rental property accelerated. The RGB’s two members representing landlords pushed for rate hikes of 6%-8% to help save decaying rentals from severe financial distress.

Adán Soltren, one of the RGB’s tenant representatives, told members who favored hikes that the proposed higher rates won’t adequately cover renovations, so “greedy” landlords pocket the proceeds instead.

“That same 2.75% that you’re so sure about, that you are not paying, will put more people that don’t look like you on the street,” Soltren said. “You’re directly failing the public. Respectfully, you should step down.”

The members representing landlords, Robert Ehrlich and Christina Smyth, received constant heckling during their pre-vote presentations.

Among the arrestees outside the meeting was Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes, who also is a longtime tenants’ advocate. Her 51st District includes Sunset Park, Red Hook, and Bay Ridge.

Ehrlich claimed that over the past two years, members of RGB “have been subject to harassment, intimidation, and inappropriate political pressure.”

He said members of the City Council and some state legislators “have directly and indirectly encouraged members of the public to also engage in unacceptable and reprehensible behavior.”

“In short,” he concluded, “the whole process has been compromised, and the integrity of this board’s action should be called into question.”

In the end, neither the landlord nor the tenant representatives voted for the new hikes. Ehrlich and Smyth want the higher rates, while Soltren and the other tenant board member, Genesis Aquino, wanted 0% increases.

That left the at-large members to carry the majority, which resulted in the 5-4 vote.

Mayor Eric Adams mentioned the upcoming vote during a press conference a few hours before the vote. He mentioned no specifics about how to keep rental rates static.

“The RGB is always concerning,” Mayor Adams said. “People are hurting. We need to make sure we keep the city affordable, and we’re going to continue to fight for affordability in this city.”

For now, Apolinaris focuses on creative budgeting to help make ends meet.

“I shop for groceries for a whole month,” she said. “I keep them in the closet. I don’t need much anyway. So, I’m going day by day.”

She also relies on her Catholic faith for direction. She attends nearby St. Paul and St. Agnes Parish on Sackett Street. Sometimes she thinks of moving to be near her adult daughter in Virginia, but she always comes back to a future in Carroll Gardens. 

She hopes to somehow find a way to stay.

“I’ve been there 45 years,” she declared. “I’m not leaving Carroll Gardens.”

A sign made from a sheet hangs from a window of an apartment building where tenants have struggled to pay rent. In New York City, the Rent Guidelines Board has approved raising rents on one-year leases by 2.75% in rent-stabilized homes, and on two-year leases by 5.25%. (Photo: Tom Brenner, Reuters via CNS)