Freeze it! Mayor calls for no rent increases for more than 2 million New Yorkers

Amid economic challenges during the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Bill de Blasio repeated on Friday his previous call for a rent freeze of over 2 million New Yorkers living in rent stabilized apartments.

During a press conference at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, de Blasio reiterated his March 27 call to place a rental freeze on 2.3 million New Yorkers. He pledged to work with the state to place the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) process of pause for the remainder of the year.

Social distancing rules in the city have put thousands out of work. According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, 350,000 unemployment claims were filed  this week and 600,000 unemployment claims have been processed over the last three weeks with 200,000 still in limbo.

During an interview with WNYC’s “Ask the Mayor with Brian Lehrer” Friday morning, de Blasio promised to speak with federal officials about suspending rent payments for NYCHA residents after speaking with a caller from Jackson Heights who lost his job because of the pandemic.

“I still have to pay rent, and I’m just wondering why can’t we get that? At the very least, NYCHA residents are some of the poorest residents in New York City, the most vulnerable residents in New York City. Let’s get the rent canceled for the very least until June,” one caller said.

The mayor responded by stating that the power of a rent moratorium lies in the hands of the state but that he was devising a way to freeze rent by suspending the RGB, his appointed nine-person committee in charge of determining yearly rent adjustments.

De Blasio also promised the Jackson Heights caller to give him an answer on federal officials’ responses to NYCHA rent payment by end-of-day Friday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Development and the Rent Guidelines Board have yet to respond to a request for comment.

“Lord knows that people do not need another burden right now,” de Blasio later said in at the tennis court turned make-shift hospital in Queens.

At Friday’s coronavirus press briefing, the mayor also announced that the tennis court received its first novel coronavirus patient and would soon expand its bed count to 470 and 20 Intensive Care Units. Originally, FEMA planned to equip the temporary hospital with 350 beds for non-coronavirus patients.

The mayors calls for a rent freeze come weeks after lawmakers, advocates and some groups representing landlords pushed for legislation that would pause evictions. In mid-March, state Senator Michael Gianaris introduced legislation that would cancel rent for 90 days.

Along with being the mayor, de Blasio is also the landlord of two Park Slope buildings. When asked by a reporter on Friday on whether he has frozen rents for his buildings, he explained that none of his tenants were out of work and therefore were capable of paying rent.

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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