The Rent Guidelines Board may make history next week when it could impose the first rent freeze in the city’s history under the mayor’s prodding for more affordable housing.
At stake are nearly 1 million rent-regulated apartments across the city and 144,000 stabilized Queens units. As these apartments become deregulated, the middle class faces a shortage of affordable places to live while low-income working families are often forced to choose between food on the table and paying the landlord.
The statistics are sobering. Mayor de Blasio’s recent report on housing in New York found that the city had lost more than 152,000 rent-stabilized apartments between 1994 and 2012 as rents on remaining units marched upward.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer told a hearing by the rent board this week that 86 percent of the tenants who live in rent-regulated units in the city earn less than $100,000 a year. He also pointed out that the average stabilized rent shot up by more than 43 percent from 2002-11.
Despite the jawing in some quarters — often by people who haven’t been lucky enough to snag one of these urban treasures — that rent regulation distorts the market, the reality is we are in dire need of affordable housing to retain the workforce that makes the city run.
There is a good argument to be made that lifting all regulations would allow rents to settle at a more equitable level across the board, but market rates probably would still be out of reach for far too many New Yorkers.
The foreign money pouring into the glitzy new condos in Manhattan underscores the tale of two cities hizzoner has described. Closer to home, Long Island City is luring some well-heeled buyers for its condos.
Where does the third-generation family of four in Queens fit into this picture or the immigrant family who has six members living in a one-bedroom?
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito testified before the board that rent stabilization plays a critical role in maintaining racial and economic diversity in the city.
“Over 60 percent of rent-stabilized tenants are people of color and their median income is almost a third lower than tenants in market-rate apartments,” she said.
The mayor has appointed six of the nine members of the rent board, which votes Monday on a 0 to 3 percent increase for a one-year lease and between 0.5 and 4.5 percent for a two-year lease.
We urge them to do the right thing and give renters a reprieve. We back Stringer and Mark-Viverito in calling for a freeze.