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Rent board OKs lowest increases in 10 years but tenants still angry

Rent board OKs lowest increases in 10 years but tenants still angry
rent stabilized apartments, like ones in this Bayside building on 43rd Avenue.
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Philip Newman

The city Rent Guidelines Board has ordered the lowest rent increases in a decade for tenants of rent-stabilized apartments in a decision that pleased neither tenants nor landlords.

Tenant advocates called for a rent freeze, but landlords complained their taxes and other expenses keep rising.

The increases are 2 percent for one-year leases and 4 percent for two-years for leases running from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013.

About 1 million apartments in the five boroughs are under rent stabilization, including 144,000 rent-stabilized apartments and 5,500 rent-controlled apartments in Queens.

Despite the lower increases, a boisterous pro-tenants crowd denounced the board during the meeting last Thursday and called for a rent freeze.

Tenants said any increase was unfair during a time of unemployment.

Landlords wanted increases of 5 percent for one-year leases and 9 percent for two-year leases.

“The rent is too damn high!” chanted tenants at the meeting at Cooper Union in Manhattan.

But Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, said not only have real estate taxes been rising but the cost of maintaining and repairing apartments as well.

“We asked for between 5 and 9 percent,” Strasburg said. “Every year we continue to fall behind.”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to rule on whether New York’s rent control laws are constitutional.

An Upper West Side couple had claimed their constitutional rights had been violated by rent stabilization laws because one of their tenants was paying rent they said was at least $1,000 a month below market value.

New York’s rent controls date back to 1943, when the federal government stepped in during a severe housing shortage during World War II. The system has been administered by state government since 1950.

New York City is the largest city in the United States maintaining rent control laws. Only those buildings with six or more tenants are legally regulated.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or phone at 718-260-4536.

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